It’s not hard to see why so many people are up in arms about the new heath care bill. The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) — an amended version of the American Health Care Act — will see taxpayers paying a lot more money for a whole lot less benefits.
But one of the biggest concerns about the BCRA isn’t the tax breaks for the wealthy or added surcharges from insurers.
It’s the cuts to Medicaid funding that are going to drastically worsen America’s opioid crisis— and that’s something that affects all of us.
How the New Health Care Bill Differs from Obamacare
Under the previous government, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — commonly known as “Obamacare” — extended Medicaid eligibility to millions of Americans. This included certain Essential Health Benefits, including access to substance use disorder services.
This meant that millions of Americans struggling with opioid addiction now had access to the necessary treatment for the first time.
But all that is about to change. Not only does the BCRA cut Medicaid funding, but it also allows states to choose if they want to opt out of certain Essential Health Benefits. Depending on which state you live in, addiction treatment services may no longer be insured.
The ACA may have opened the door for millions of Americans facing substance use problems, but the BCRA is going to keep it firmly shut.
What is the Opioid Epidemic?
America is in the midst of an opioid crisis, and it’s only getting worse. Addiction and overdose are at an all-time high. Just take a look at some of the statistics:
- 2.8 million Americans have a substance abuse disorder.
- Drug overdose is the biggest cause of accidental death amongst Americans, with 63% of those deaths resulting from opioids.
- In America, 91 people die every single day from opioid overdoses.
The FBI even had to set up a special task force to combat “enablers” of the opioid epidemic, resulting in the arrest of hundreds of medical professionals found to be defrauding the Medicare system by prescribing prescription drugs. A quarter of those arrests were directly related to opioids.
Under the ACA, people who abused opioids were 50% more likely to access the necessary treatment. But thanks to the new Medicare reforms, 220,000 people in need of treatment would lose some (if not all) of their coverage.
What’s even more staggering is that if the new health care bill goes ahead as planned, the number of Americans addicted to opioids would climb to 640,000.
While the bill does pledge $45 billion toward mental health and substance abuse services over the next decade, that number isn’t going to cut it. According to health economist Richard Frank, that amount would need to be closer to $183 billion.
America’s Opioid Crisis Affects Everyone
You might be wondering how a lack of addiction treatment services could be relevant to people who don’t need them. But the truth is that these reforms are going to come at a great cost to all Americans.
- The criminal justice system
- Treatment for opioid use-related diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV
- An overall loss in productivity
When the government cuts funding to essential addiction treatment services, it’s taxpayers who bear the financial burden. Reduced Medicaid coverage may save money in the short-term, but it’s going to be extremely expensive in the long run.
Americans are Taking a Stand Against the New Health Care Bill
The Better Care Reconciliation Act has not been well received. Those who oppose the Medicare changes include organizations such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Psychological Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, and even a number of Republican senators.
Nevada senator Dean Heller was one of five conservative Republicans to publicly denounce the BCRA. Senator Heller cited cuts in Medicaid access to opioid users as the biggest reason that he couldn’t support the bill.
If the changes to Medicare go ahead as planned, then nearly half a million Americans will die from opioid use in the next 10 years.
While there are many ways to tackle America’s opioid crisis, cutting access to services isn’t one of them. The new health care bill will burden taxpayers and cost lives. It’s in the interest of all Americans to reject these new reforms and demand Medicaid access to those who need it most.
National Institute of Drug Abuse
American Society of Addiction Medicine
American Society of Addiction Medicine
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
American Psychological Association
Las Vegas Sun