State Lawmakers Must Protect Medicaid In Battle Against Addiction

Speaker of the Ohio House, Cliff Rosenberger represents rural Clinton County in Southwestern Ohio, which was the subject of a front page feature in the New York Times earlier this week about the state’s addiction crisis and its dramatic impact on Ohio communities.

Ohio leads the nation in overdose deaths. Nationwide, the number of deaths from opiate overdoses exceeds the death toll from HIV/AIDS at its peak.

Yesterday, in a Statehouse hearing, the father of an addicted daughter testified about the importance of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act in saving his daughter’s life:

In the end my daughter is alive today because of the Affordable Care Act. She has access to Medicaid under the Medicaid expansion and is therefore able to receive the Vivitrol shot which blocks opiate receptors in the brain. This shot save Leah’s life. Of the recipients in Ohio 92% get this shot through Medicaid. Stop Medicaid expansion and the death toll will skyrocket. My daughter has access to mental health counseling and gets her medication because of Medicaid expansion and the ACA. She and most others would not be able to afford these lifesaving services without the Medicaid expansion.

Expanded Medicaid plays a huge role in fighting Ohio’s addiction epidemic. Another recent report showed that fully half of Ohioans taking buprenorphine, another treatment medication, are doing so thanks to Medicaid coverage.

The GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act currently pending in Congress features sharp cuts in Medicaid, which the Center for Community Solutions projects could lead to a $2.4 billion shortfall in the law’s first two years. Given that looming budget hole, combined with revenue shortfalls the state is already experiencing after years of aggressive tax cuts, can Speaker Rosenberger and his caucus put together a budget package that ensures the state can continue to save the lives of Ohioans suffering from addiction?

As Ohio’s budget process for 2018-2019 continues, advocates and activists must insist that Rosenberger and fellow lawmakers prepare contingency plans for the possibility of the AHCA becoming the law, perhaps by rolling back some of the tax cuts on the very wealthy and instead directing those funds to help people–like his Clinton County neighbors–who most need it.