Most readers know by now that deep cuts to Medicaid over the next decade are a central feature of the healthcare reform proposal before the U.S. Senate this week — and a terrible policy that would put health coverage out of reach for millions of Americans. But here’s yet another reason why senators should think twice about voting for the Better Care Reconciliation Act: Doing so would pull the rug out from under those fighting to stop the raging opioid epidemic.

That should resonate with President Trump, not just because opioid addiction has disproportionately affected states that powered his victory in November, including Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, but also because Trump promised on the campaign trail to stop the opioid scourge. In March, in fact, he formed a commission to study the crisis and appointed a political ally, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, to run it.

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which is charged with evaluating and improving the federal response to the epidemic, is expected to make its first report later this month. If Christie and his fellow commissioners are honest, then they will have no choice but to point out to Trump that the biggest threat to the government’s ability to fight the scourge is the healthcare reform he is pushing. Slashing Medicaid and threatening the requirement that private insurers cover drug treatment isn’t just “mean” (which is what he called the House’s version of healthcare reform), it could be fatal.

That’s not hyperbole, it is a grim reality of the raging opioid epidemic. Deaths from drug overdose have been climbing precipitously in the last decade, driven primarily by an explosion in opioid use in the form of heroin and prescription drugs such as hydrocodone and fentanyl. The number of opioid abusers in America grew to 2.5 million in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That same year 33,000 people died as a result of opioid use, 5,000 more than the year before. Even with so many people dying, the numbers of drug overdoses are continuing to climb partly because of the accessibility of illegal opioids.

Go to Source

Slashing Medicaid is probably the worst way to fight an opioid addiction epidemic