Kaine to Trump: Obamacare repeal would kneecap opioid fight

tim kaineU.S. Sen. Tim Kaine joined Senate colleagues in writing to President Donald Trump warning that repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with no replacement would pull the rug out from under local communities working to combat the opioid epidemic and could endanger millions of Americans just as they are getting treatment. A repeal threatens to cut $5.5 billion in federal dollars that each year go toward treating Americans battling opioid addiction through the Medicaid expansion or the ACA marketplaces. States, like Virginia, would lose the chance to apply for this federal funding to fight the opioid epidemic. In 2014, opioids claimed more lives in Virginia than vehicle crashes and has been declared a public health emergency.

“The consequences of repealing the Affordable Care Act are dire for all Americans, but they are especially calamitous for Americans living with a mental illness, a substance use disorder, or both,” the Senators wrote. “Repealing this law will cut billions of dollars in funding, kick tens of millions of Americans off of their health insurance, and saddle providers with hundreds of millions of dollars more in uncompensated care.”

Nationwide, nearly 1.3 million Americans currently receiving treatment for substance abuse or mental health disorders could be kicked off of their coverage under repeal. A recent report from Harvard Medical School and New York University details the devastating impact the repeal would have on those struggling with addiction.

In December 2016, President Obama signed into law the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act – legislation that will provide $1 billion in federal grant funding over the next two years to states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire that have been hardest-hit by the opioid epidemic. But now, Congress is working to repeal the health law and pull addiction services – and funding for treatment – out from under millions of Americans. In the letter, the Senators note that at the same time states are competing for the grants made available through Cures, ACA repeal stands to take away $5.5 billion in just one year from addiction and mental health treatment services.

The letter, led by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), was also signed by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH).


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