Repeal of ACA would cripple opioid epidemic fight

Commentary

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and prominent organizations and healthcare service providers in West Virginia, announce research by Harvard and New York University that shows repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would cut $5.5 billion per year from the fight against the opioid epidemic.

The removal of this critical funding would lead to increased deaths, homelessness and incarcerations and would adversely affect states with opioid challenges.

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement will not only cause 184,000 West Virginians to lose their coverage, but would also cause those struggling with addiction to lose their treatment,” Manchin said. “In West Virginia, half of the people in treatment would lose their coverage that was made possible through the Affordable Care Act. With our state leading the nation in drug overdose deaths, West Virginians cannot afford to have this critical funding ripped from them without a replacement ready. In order to beat this scourge on our society, we must use every tool and resource at our disposal and that includes the funding and consumer protections for individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders established by this law. While I recognize the serious flaws with the ACA, I will do everything in my power to protect the individuals, families, and communities in West Virginia who are struggling and ensure that they have the resources they need to combat this epidemic.”

“My community and state have suffered greatly from the scourge of the opioid epidemic.  It has literally torn families apart, taken children from their parents and has had a devastating impact on every member of my community. Any attempt to cut federal funding for substance abuse treatment could literally kill members of my community.  We need to be expanding treatment dollars, not cutting them,” said Judge William S. Thompson, Circuit Judge, 25th Judicial Circuit (Boone and Lincoln Counties).

“Community health centers serve more than 400,000 West Virginians and provide primary care to many individuals with substance use disorders.  With funding through the ACA in 2016, five community health centers are now providing medication-assisted treatment to approximately 700 patients of all ages, including young adults and pregnant mothers.  These newly established treatment programs already have long waiting lists.  West Virginia needs significant resources to reduce this serious epidemic and medication-assisted treatment is one of several important strategies to reduce addition.  Elimination of funding to support these programs would be devastating to our efforts to reduce addiction,” Louise Reese said, chief executive officer of the West Virginia Primary Care Association.

“Kanawha Communities that Care appreciates the funding made possible by the ACA to provide treatment to those struggling with addiction and to help them get back on their feet. I applaud Senator Manchin for speaking up on this issue that will greatly impact our community efforts and our state’s ability to treat substance abuse,” Kristi Justice, MA, said, Executive Director of Kanawha Communities That Care.

“The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia cares for over 14,000 children and families annually.  The expansion of Medicaid in West Virginia has benefited West Virginia’s most vulnerable children and families.  On a daily basis the Children’s Home Society cares for children that have been displaced and left homeless due to the opioid and drug related epidemic.  This issue alone has dramatically increased the number of children entering the foster care system and thus places an additional financial burden on our state.  West Virginia’s Medicaid expansion has provided the additional resources to allow West Virginia child welfare providers to better care for and meet emergent needs,” said Mary White, chief operations officer of the Children’s Home Society.

The research finds that the ACA improved access to substance abuse treatment by increasing coverage within the Medicaid program and private insurance plans, and by including multiple consumer protections that made it easier for people to access substance abuse treatment.

 

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