Editorial: Allow Medicaid to help babies born drug dependent

Columbus Dispatch

It is a heartbreaking growth industry, especially in Ohio: helping babies born dependent on drugs to get through the hell of withdrawal.

As the cost of such care has skyrocketed along with opioid abuse, a better approach is emerging. But if it is to reach its potential, state and national leaders need to clear away a bureaucratic obstacle.

The typical course for babies with what’s called neonatal abstinence syndrome is to care for them in hospital neonatal intensive-care units. There, the high-level medical expertise and available technology are beyond question, but those don’t necessarily produce the best environment for an NAS baby.

Innovative health-care professionals, including a group in suburban Dayton, have come up with a better alternative in homelike settings where moms and babies can stay together and care can be more high-touch than high-tech.

The problem? Most babies with NAS are covered by Medicaid, and Medicaid rules don’t allow payment for infant drug-addiction services outside of hospitals.

This can be fixed one of two ways: a federal law change or a state-based waiver allowing the state’s Medicaid program to cover NAS care in stand-alone facilities. Efforts are underway on both tracks, and we hope one will succeed soon.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, teamed with Republican senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Rob Portman of Ohio on a measure that would allow Medicaid to pay for NAS care in “pediatric recovery facilities” as well as in hospitals.

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Editorial: Allow Medicaid to help babies born drug dependent »