Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Will Opioids Kill the AHCA?

As a small group of Senators toil away in secrecy on an effort to recast a sixth of the American economy, one of the sticking points in the legislative negotiation is funding for the opioid crisis.

While substantial cuts in Medicaid seem destined to make it into the bill in one form (a basic cut in funding) or another (a shift to state-level block grants), several Senators from both parties are lobbying to include $45 billion over 10 years for the fight against opioid misuse and abuse, primarily aimed at availability and access to addiction treatment.  Moderate Republicans like Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Susan Collins of Maine have made this a central issue in work toward a Senate healthcare bill.  A few of their Democratic colleagues, namely Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, are arguing for even more funding - the $45 billion over 10 years isn't nearly enough in their view.

Note those states: Ohio, West Virginia, Maine, Pennsylvania.  These Senators are doing what Senators are supposed to do: represent their constituents. Portman has gone so far as to state publicly that he won't be able to vote for a bill that doesn't include this funding.  Keep in mind that to pass the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), Republicans can only afford to lose two of their 52 votes.  If they lose three, the bill won't pass.  

The opioid crisis has created one of the precious few areas of bipartisanship I can recall over the last several election cycles.  We might see legitimate arguments over appropriate funding levels, but the necessity of action is unquestioned and the focus on prevention and treatment is almost universally shared.  (Notably, one person who doesn't appear to share the view that prevention and treatment are superior tactics to criminal justice solutions is former Senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions: he'd rather return to a set of failed policies that have done nothing to stem drug-related crime in this country).

Personally, I'm torn.  I want to see substantial funding for prevention and treatment of addiction.  At the same time, if the AHCA dies in the Senate over this issue, it will serve to shine a very bright light on opioid addiction and simultaneously prevent a very bad bill from becoming law.

On Twitter @PRIUM1


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