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Would healthcare repeal cripple Ohio's efforts to fight drug epidemic?

• Jan 11, 2017 at 3:00 PM

With Ohio leading the nation in opioid-related overdose deaths, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) today warned that repealing the Affordable Care Act would kick thousands of Ohioans off of addiction treatment and cut billions of dollars from communities working to combat the opioid epidemic nationwide.

“Repealing the law would immediately interrupt treatment for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who are struggling with addiction and fighting for their lives,” said Brown. “Local communities all across Ohio are doing their part to combat the opioid crisis. We cannot let the federal government pull the rug out from under their work with so many lives at stake.”

Just last month, President Obama signed into law the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act – legislation that will provide $1 billion in federal grant funding over the next two years to states like Ohio who’ve been hardest-hit by the opioid epidemic. But now, Congress is working to repeal the health law and pull addiction services – and funding for treatment – out from under thousands of Ohioans.

“Just to be clear, in the last month of 2016, Congress voted to give $1.1 billion to states over the next two years to treat this epidemic, and in just the second week of 2017, they are voting to take $5.5 billion away over just one year,” Brown said. “That’s taking one step forward and five steps back.”

A new report out today from Harvard Medical School and New York University details the devastating impact the repeal would have on Ohioans who are struggling with addiction.

The new data analysis shows:

• More than 220,000 Ohioans with addiction or mental health disorders now have coverage under the Affordable Care Act – 151,257 through the Medicaid expansion and 69,225 under private insurance purchased through the marketplace. Repeal would kick those people off of their insurance, potentially to disrupting treatment services for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans as they are fighting for their lives.

• Nationwide, 1.3 million Americans currently receiving treatment for substance abuse or mental health disorders would be kicked off of their coverage under repeal. And states would lose $5.5 billion in federal dollars each year that go toward treating these Americans through the Medicaid expansion or the marketplaces.

• In Ohio, Medicaid supports nearly 50 percent of the state’s medication-assisted treatment with buprenorphine. Repeal would jeopardize this funding, leaving state and local governments and taxpayers to pick up the costs.

Brown this week co-sponsored several amendments to the budget reconciliation package — the vehicle Congress is using to repeal the Affordable Care Act — aimed at protecting the mental health and addiction services made possible through the law. He cosponsored an amendment to prevent the Senate from considering legislation that would hinder efforts to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic by reducing access to substance use treatment covered under the Affordable Care Act. He also cosponsored an amendment to prevent legislation that would reduce access to substance use disorder treatment and worsen the opioid epidemic.

In an effort to combat the scourge of opioid use in Ohio, Brown previously introduced legislation that would help address the opioid epidemic from prevention to recovery, filling in gaps that would help: boost prevention, improve tools for crisis response for those who fall through the cracks, expand access to treatment, and provide support for lifelong recovery. The senator also supported the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), signed into law last year, which included his provision to combat drug abuse within Medicare by locking those with a history of addiction into one prescriber and one pharmacy to help manage potential addiction. He has also worked to expand use of MAT, which was expanded under CARA, and cosponsored The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment (TREAT) Act to build further expand access to this form of treatment.

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