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Health Care, Medicaid Cuts And The Opioid Crisis

Could the Senate health care bill make the opioid crisis worse? We’ll look at how deep cuts to Medicaid could hobble efforts to save lives.

Drug overdose deaths in the U.S. last year: nearly 60,000. Far more than in car crashes. At the heart of that soaring drug death number, opioids. The daily opioid death toll around the country is shocking. Millions struggling with addiction. A big part of the answer has to be treatment. That costs money. Maybe $45 billion in the next decade. Maybe $190 billion. The Senate health care plan earmarks $2 billion. This hour On Point: Are we tackling the opioid crisis, or not? — Tom Ashbrook


Abby Goodnough, health care reporter for The New York Times. (@abbygoodnough)

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. (@andrewkolodny)

Sen. Maggie Hassan, Democratic Senator from New Hampshire. (@SenatorHassan)

Jodi Long, division director for treatment and recovery services at the Montgomery County Department of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services.

From Tom’s Reading List

STAT: Two GOP senators wanted $45 billion in health care bill to battle opioid crisis. They got $2 billion — “The health care bill unveiled by Senate Republicans on Thursday includes funding to help tackle the nation’s opioid crisis — but dramatically less than the amount sought by two GOP senators and recovery advocates. Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) at one point had requested $45 billion over the course of a decade to keep the battle against opioids on the nation’s front burner. The bill instead would allocate only $2 billion, all in 2018.”

New York Times: Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever — “Drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States, according to preliminary data compiled by The New York Times. The death count is the latest consequence of an escalating public health crisis: opioid addiction, now made more deadly by an influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.”

The Daily Signal: The Opioid Crisis Is Dire. Why We Need a National Conversation About It Separate From Obamacare. — “Whatever the merits or demerits of the recently released Senate version of the GOP health care bill, some have suggested that it should put more funding into treating opioid addiction. Let’s be honest—the opioid crisis in America is huge, it is severe, and it is devastating. But this partisan-fought legislation just isn’t the place to put that funding. And it would likely do little to help stem and reverse the opioid crisis.”

A Story Of Relapse And Loss In New Orleans

Scott in New Orleans, Louisiana, called in to our show today to share his experience with opioid addiction treatment. He said he’s struggled to find doctors in his city, with and without the Affordable Care Act.

“We have a huge lack of psychiatric and addiction treatment services,” Scott said of New Orleans. That left him to pay hundreds of dollars a month for Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat addiction.

Scott said he was clean for two and half years before recently relapsing. After switching doctors, he needed to test “dirty” for heroin again to get a new prescription for Suboxone. So he did.

I guess choose that excuse,” he said. “I wanted to do it again.”

But his own troubles aside, Scott sees opioids as a prominent problem on the streets of New Orleans.

“I actually witnessed a good friend overdose and die this weekend on fentanyl,” he said, “which seems to be the norm here.”

Opioid Deaths Across The Country

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(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)