CINCINNATI, OH —Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) met with southwest Ohio law enforcement and addiction specialists to discuss how critical Medicaid is in combating the opioid epidemic. Washington leaders are working to repeal the Affordable Care Act, end Governor Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid and pass deep cuts to the Medicaid program. Ohio experts have said Medicaid coverage is the state’s best tool for getting people into treatment and simply putting more money in the bill without Medicaid won’t work.
- 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 $45 billion to address the opioid crisis in the entire country over 10 years.
- Experts have said a $45 billion investment won’t work. Simply throwing money at it won’t fix the problems in this bill. The money is useless if Ohio doesn’t have a Medicaid program to get people covered.
“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. Washington can’t simply throw money at this bill and hope the problems go away. More money won’t do any good without a Medicaid program to get people covered.”
Brown was joined at the roundtable by representatives from: Talbert House, southwest Ohio law enforcement, the First Step home, University Hospital, and Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.
“Medicaid expansion has provided lifesaving services for Hamilton County residents caught in the opiate epidemic,” said Patrick Tribbe, President and CEO of the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. “Changes to health care and Medicaid need to be weighed carefully to avoid removing access to treatment that help us fight this battle.”
This year, Brown teamed up with U.S. Sen Rob Portman on a pair of bills to help block fentanyl from reaching Ohio communities, the INTERDICT and STOP Acts. Brown’s INTERDICT ACT provides Customs and Border agents with additional resources to screen for fentanyl safely and effectively.
Several state and national law enforcement organizations, including the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Buckeye Sheriff’s Association, have endorsed Brown’s bill.
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.