Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan each slammed the Graham-Cassidy “health care” proposal for the damage it would do to state’s fighting the country’s rampaging opioid epidemic.

Ohio leads the nation in opioid overdoses and is particularly vulnerable to any legislation that rips away resources for addiction treatment.

With U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, saying they will vote no on the proposal, it appears U.S. Senate Republicans don’t have the 50 votes to push the bill to Vice President Mike Pence for a tie-breaker.

Nevertheless, anything could happen and the American people aren’t really out of the dark until Oct. 1 when the current Senate rules expire and the GOP would need 60 votes to push a health care bill forward.

Brown renewed his call for a bipartisan solution on healthcare at the Senate’s only hearing on the so-called Graham-Cassidy healthcare repeal bill before the Senate Finance Committee.

Brown entered more than 200 letters from Ohioans into the record and blasted the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill for gutting Medicaid, which is Ohio’s number one tool in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

Expert witnesses confirmed the Medicaid cuts in Graham-Cassidy would hurt Ohio’s ability to combat opioid addiction. Experts also testified that the block grant money Ohio would get in place of Medicaid would not be nearly enough to make up for the cuts.

“(You)d on’t have to take my word for it. You can take the word of a father I met in Cincinnati, who told me that his 30 year old daughter would not be alive today if it weren’t for Medicaid,” Brown said. “Or the mother in Youngstown, who has a son who is getting treatment today because of Medicaid.”

Brown also pointed to the word of the Ohio Sheriffs he met with last week, who he said are putting their lives on the line to help keep Ohioans safe and get fentanyl out of our communities.

“They told me how they rely on Medicaid to help individuals get treatment,” Brown said. “Why on earth would we make it harder for them to do their jobs?”

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, a release from Brown’s office noted.

It also said that there is no additional money in the bill to fight opioids after cutting Medicaid. Medicaid covered 70 percent of the $939 million the state invested in the opioid epidemic last year, the release said.

“Graham-Cassidy specifically targets and punishes states like Ohio that expanded Medicaid by taking money Ohio currently gets and giving it to states that did not expand their Medicaid program,” the release said. “This is on top of overall dramatic cuts to all states.”

According to a study from Avalere, Graham Cassidy would cut federal funding to Ohio by $9 billion from 2020-2026, $19 billion by 2027 and $161 billion by 2036 – a 31 percent cut that the state’s budget simply can’t afford.

In addition, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the House GOP plan – which is nearly identical to Graham-Cassidy – would cause premiums to go up an average of about 20 percent next year. Some analyses have shown that this bill could drive up premiums and drive out insurers even more.

Finally, Graham-Cassidy allows insurance companies to charge Ohioans age 50 and older more for their insurance. According to data compiled by the Senate Committee on Aging, the House GOP plan – which is nearly identical to Graham-Cassidy – would raise the insurance premiums of an average 60-year-old in Ohio by $1,609 annually.

The AARP warned last week that Graham-Cassidy would devastate Ohio seniors, who could face a total increase in health care costs of $13,563 under the legislation.

U.S. Rep. Ryan, D-Niles, meanwhile, held a news conference Monday with health care workers on the opioid crisis and Graham-Cassidy.

Ryan, the co-chair of the U.S. Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, was joined by three frontline healthcare workers to discuss the opioid crisis and the lack of parity between mental health and physical healthcare.

“The Trump Administration’s 2018 budget proposes substantial cuts to the Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program,” a release from Ryan’s office previewing the event said. “Medicaid is the country’s largest payer for addiction services — and covers a significant portion of opioid addiction medication.”

In a just released study, the release said, Princeton economist Alan Krueger documents that opioids are more than a health threat. Between 1999 and 2015, roughly 20 percent of the drop in men’s workforce participation and 25 percent of women’s were due to painkiller drug use.

This last fact gives the lie to U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci’s odious assertion that opioid abuse is the result of increased reliance on Medicaid in Ohio. Renacci, who is a Republican candidate for Ohio governor, has carelessly mistaken the effect for the cause. It’s the opioid addiction that’s led to the increased Medicaid need, not the other way around.

 

 

 

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