Brown Joins Mahoning Valley Advocates to Stand Up Against Healthcare Bill that Undermines Efforts to Combat Opioid Epidemic

More Than 200,000 Ohioans Battling Addiction Could Lose Coverage

Brown Joins Mahoning Valley Advocates to Stand Up Against Healthcare Bill that Undermines Efforts to Combat Opioid EpidemicYOUNGSTOWN, OH —Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Mahoning Valley law enforcement, hospitals, and addiction specialists to stand up against the Senate’s draft bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which eliminates Medicaid expansion and includes additional cuts to Medicaid – the most important tool for the treatment of opioid addiction in Ohio.

  • According to a Harvard study 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 disrupting treatment services for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans as they are fighting for their lives.
  • Ohio spent nearly $1 billion dollars to fight the opioid epidemic last year alone, with 70 percent of this investment coming directly from Medicaid. The Senate bill would end Medicaid expansion, which allows thousands of Ohioans to get treatment, and replace it with just $2 billion to address the opioid crisis in the entire country over 10 years.

“If a house is on fire, you don’t take away the firefighters’ hoses and hand them squirt guns,” Brown said. “Ohio communities desperately need Washington to take this epidemic seriously, and ending the Medicaid program we know is working takes away the number one tool we have to fight back.”

Brown was joined by representatives from Mahoning County organizations concerned about the proposed cuts, including: the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, the Coalition for a Drug Free Mahoning County, the Austintown Police Department, Mercy Health Foundation, the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center, First Step Recovery, and judicial offices.   

“Medicaid expansion was a game changer that provided needed help to individuals in treatment for addiction. By cutting Medicaid, people will not only lose their access to treatment, but it will mean cuts to housing and education programs presently funded by local dollars. That money will then have to go to treatment. These cuts would devastate Ohio communities,” said Duane Piccirilli, Executive Director of the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board.

“This is a public health crisis, and the cost to provide treatment is only a fraction of what it costs society to leave the need untreated.  Prevention is always the best option, but when we support treatment and recovery, we equip adults to become productive and self-supporting and we give children the chance to live with their family and to grow up drug-free,” said Angela DiVito, Director of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning County.

Brown has worked with members of both parties to secure federal resources and address the opioid crisis in Ohio communities. In May, Brown criticized President Trump’s proposed budget for cutting or maintaining current levels of federal funding for various programs working to address the opioid epidemic, even as opioid overdose deaths continue to rise.

The proposed Senate healthcare bill would not only take away coverage for addiction treatment, but it also does nothing to lower costs for Ohioans struggling to afford their premiums or prescription drug costs.

  • Ohioans between the ages of 50 and 65 who do not have coverage through an employer would face even higher healthcare costs and be charged up to five times as much for coverage, and all Ohioans could lose access to essential health benefits currently mandated under the Affordable Care Act, such as mental health services and maternity coverage.

The House bill the Senate used as the basis for its replacement bill would cause premiums to go up an average of about 20 percent next year.