When the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was first proposed, it was met with resistance from both Republicans and Democrats, particularly when it came to how the bill would affect the current opioid crisis sweeping the nation. In an effort to increase support for the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently added $45 billion to the healthcare bill. The additional funds are to be utilized to fight the opioid crisis over 10 years.
The previous version of the bill only included $2 billion budget for opioid treatment, making this a significant increase in funding. Yet many politicians and addiction treatment experts are saying that it is nowhere near enough. One of them is Kathy Castor, a Democratic Congresswoman from Tampa, who said, “The key to treatment is a consistent plan. You can’t just…go to the ER, and maybe they’re getting some additional dollars for a referral for a day or two of treatment. You have to have coverage.”
Castor is not alone in her opinion. Linda Rosenberg, president of the National Council for Behavioral Health, said, “When it comes to other illnesses like breast cancer or heart disease, we’d never rely solely on grants for treatment — because we know that grants are not substitutes for health coverage.”
Addiction experts believe that although the funds would help, they would not be able to replace the benefits of Medicaid. Local, state, and Medicaid funding makes up most of the budgets for substance abuse programs in states across the nation. In New York, which has been heavily impacted by the opioid epidemic, Medicaid makes up two-thirds of the total budget. With AHCA’s budget cuts to Medicaid, access to treatment programs will be drastically reduced for low-income individuals.