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U.S. House Committee Reviews State Opioid Efforts and Ongoing Challenges

July 12, 2017

In a hearing today, Combating the Opioid Crisis: Battles in the States, Congressional leaders heard testimony from state officials offering insight on successful strategies to address the opioid epidemic and ongoing challenges in prevention and treatment.

U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy (R, PA-18) chaired the Energy & Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing and emphasizing the need to:

  • Improve data
  • Address the shortage of providers—psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and licensed addiction counselors
  • Ensure individuals are accessing evidence-based care

The Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D, CO-01), highlighted concerns that efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and proposed changes to the financing of the Medicaid program would imperil access to care for those suffering from substance use disorders.

Testimony by Rebecca L. Boss, director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals, pointed to Medicaid as a key tool in combating the opioid epidemic. Boss stated that treatment for substance use disorders leads to recovery and access to the treatment has been advanced by Medicaid expansion.

Pennsylvania hospitals have cautioned that legislation approved by the U.S. House—the American Health Care Act (AHCA)—and under consideration by the U.S. Senate—the Better Care Reconciliation Act—would have a significant impact on individuals challenged by substance abuse and mental health diseases. Both bills would eliminate enhanced federal funding for the Medicaid expansion population and shift Medicaid financing to a per capita cap, affecting the ability of the state to maintain coverage for vulnerable patients.

Kaiser estimates that Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) cover three in ten individuals with opioid addiction. Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program provides behavioral health coverage for more than 565,000 with mental health and substance abuse disorders. Since the expansion of Medicaid, Pennsylvania has provided drug and alcohol treatment to more than 125,000 people who might otherwise have gone without care.

Phasing-out the enhanced federal match and significant Medicaid cuts, would put people at risk and reverse Pennsylvania’s progress in addressing the opioid crisis.

During the hearing, U.S. Congressman Ryan Costello (R, PA-06), who voted against the AHCA, expressed hope that $26 million in grant funding awarded to Pennsylvania through the 21st Century Cures Act would support state efforts. Congressman Costello also took interest in a proposal by Maryland to establish a 24-hour stabilization center in Baltimore that would allow individuals to be stabilized and then placed in longer-term treatment.

Questions about HAP’s efforts to address the commonwealth’s opioid crisis can be referred to Michael J. Consuelos, MD, senior vice president, clinical integration. Questions about HAP’s federal advocacy efforts to preserve health insurance coverage may be directed to Laura Stevens Kent, vice president, federal advocacy.

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