Attorney General Shapiro: Senate Health Care Bill Hurts Fight Against Opioid Epidemic by Eliminating Access to Drug Treatment for More than 175,000 Pennsylvanians

June 27, 2017 | Topic: Opioids

Attorney General’s Letters to Senators Detail Law Enforcement Actions against Epidemic, Urge Senators to Consider Need for Drug Treatment before Voting on Health Care

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro is calling on Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey to carefully consider how Senate health care legislation will reverse progress for millions of Americans fighting to overcome addiction during the heroin and opioid crisis – including 175,000 Pennsylvanians.

In letters to Pennsylvania’s senators, Attorney General Shapiro said the Senate Better Care Reconciliation Act eliminates guaranteed access to substance use disorder treatment by opening the door to insurance plans that would not cover it, and introducing caps on Medicaid spending, which will prevent Pennsylvania from effectively combatting the heroin crisis. Attorney General Shapiro addressed the same public health and public safety issues in a March 21, 2017 letter to Pennsylvania’s House delegation, emphasizing the importance of drug treatment for Pennsylvanians – before nine of the state’s 17 members of Congress voted against legislation similar to the Senate bill under consideration.

Attorney General Shapiro’s letters to the senators yesterday details the array of law enforcement actions his office has undertaken to combat the heroin crisis, including arresting drug dealers and traffickers as well as those who divert prescription drugs for illicit uses.

“No level of law enforcement can solve this problem completely – expanding access to treatment is critical,” Attorney General Shapiro’s letters state. “The health care bill under consideration by the United States Senate will prevent us from effectively combatting the heroin crisis because it eliminates guaranteed access to treatment for millions of Americans.”

The Affordable Care Act, the landmark law approved during the Obama administration, helped 1.1 million more Pennsylvanians gain health coverage and 175,000 to access substance use disorder treatment. The Senate bill under consideration would roll back much of this expansion, and end these patients’ guarantee of coverage for treatment through individual insurance plans and Medicaid.

Attorney General Shapiro’s letters lay out Pennsylvania’s heroin epidemic in stark terms:

  • In 2016, 4,642 Pennsylvanians fatally overdosed, a 37 percent increase from 2015.
  • The risk of death from overdosing is on the rise with the increased prevalence of fentanyl and other additives.
  • The abuse of prescription drugs leads to the addiction that drives many Pennsylvanians to these deadly substances.

“As you negotiate with your colleagues in the Senate, I urge you to keep the issue of access to essential drug treatment top of mind and do everything in your power to ensure Pennsylvanians can get the help they need to overcome addiction,” Attorney General Shapiro’s letters conclude.

Read Attorney General Shapiro’s letters to Senator Casey and Senator Toomey

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