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ASAM Urges Senate to Reject Harmful Health Care Bill

by ASAM Staff | June 23, 2017

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) urges the Senate to reject the health reform bill unveiled today by Senate leadership. The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), like the House-passed American Health Care Act, would devastate access to addiction treatment services in the midst of our nation’s ongoing opioid addiction and overdose epidemic.

ASAM opposes the Senate proposals to cap Medicaid payments – cutting federal funding for the Medicaid program even more severely than the House bill – and roll back the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion, which has been a lifeline to Americans suffering from addiction. Medicaid expansion has been associated with an 18.3% reduction in unmet need for addiction treatment, and it accounts for 50% or more of Medicaid spending on addiction treatment services in states hit hard by the opioid epidemic.

“ASAM is deeply concerned about what will happen to the 2.8 million Americans with a substance use disorder who gained coverage for the first time under the Medicaid expansion,” said ASAM President Dr. Kelly Clark. “We’ve seen the death toll from the opioid epidemic rise year after year; cutting access to treatment now will be a death sentence for too many more Americans.”

The Senate proposal would also allow states to waive the ACA’s Essential Health Benefits, which include mental health and addiction treatment services. Prior to the ACA, an estimated 30% of plans sold on the individual and small group markets did not cover addiction treatment services. In its evaluation of the House bill, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that these services will be among the first to be waived by states, causing patients’ out-of-pocket spending to rise by thousands of dollars.

“The Senate bill would move us back to a time when even those with insurance can’t access medically necessary addiction treatment services,” said Dr. Paul Earley, ASAM’s President-Elect. “And its inclusion of $2 billion in 2018 to address the opioid epidemic is no substitute for sustainable and predictable Medicaid coverage – coverage that allows for the treatment of the whole person, not just one diagnosis.”

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CONTACT: Contact: Susan Awad, 301-547-4103 sawad@asam.org