The opioid crisis in the United States is an issue that has drawn a lot of attention, but government policies are threatening to make the situation significantly worse.
The opioid crisis is something that the entire United States has been made aware of through substantial reporting. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, approximately 20.5 million Americans suffer from some substance use disorder, as of 2015. Out of all of those, two million of them are addicted to pain relievers. In 2016, over 50,000 people died from overdoses.
As stated, the problem has received widespread attention. However, despite this, real progress is not being made in curbing deaths or the proliferation of addiction. An example of this is in Massachusetts, where overdosing has increased from 1,651 to 1,933 from 2015 to 2016. Despite this, the state budget cut 2 million from opioid treatment.
In Ohio, the jump from 2014 to 2015 was 2,106 to 3,050 deaths. The state is attempting to implement work requirements for Medicaid. This would ignore the fact that many issues that relate to opioid abuse stem from poor abusers being less able to recover. Statistics reveal someone making less than 20,000 dollars is three times less likely to recover than someone making over 70,000 dollars. Those that are unemployed or poor would be the ones hurt most by a work requirement would most likely lead to more people falling into addiction.
But these two states pale in comparison to the effects that the Better Care Reconciliation Act would do to strip states abilities to handle the crisis. The Medicaid expansion that increased health care aid to the opioid crisis counts for over 50 percent of those treated in some states, including 49.3% and 49.5% in Ohio and Massachusetts respectively, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. With up to 772 billion dollars in cuts being made to Medicaid by the Better Care Act, this money has to come out of states somehow. So, in part, the cuts made by states may be in preparation for the cuts being made in the bill.
The cuts being made to Medicaid are part of the problem, but there are others. Even those that are still able to afford health care will not necessarily have any protections for if they fall into the darkness of abuse. An amendment that was added by Senator Ted Cruz would allow for insurers to not comply with what the Affordable Care Act had deemed “essential health benefits.” Drug treatment was one of those that had to be covered.
With the Attorney General of the United States reinstating mandatory minimum sentencing for crimes including drug use and cuts being made to drug treatment, the United States government is implementing a dangerous shift away from treatment and towards punishment. The new president and his staff are increasing the number of prisons while simultaneously cutting down on treatment directed towards funding. Addiction is a problem that could strike any person through out the course of their life. Treatment is something that anyone should have access to, but looking at the statistics, they show that this isn’t necessarily true. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 37.3 percent of people who didn’t receive treatment didn’t because they could not afford it. Cutting money from Medicaid will only exacerbate this issue.