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GOP-Backed Health Bill Could Hurt Opioid Treatment, Critics Warn

Thousands of Ohio residents using subsidies to pay for federally-mandated health insurance could lose that funding.
Flickr/Creative Commons

Ohio health-care advocates are reacting to Thursday's passage of a GOP health bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill is far from becoming reality. But, if passed into law, the “American Health Care Act” would make a long list of changes to the country’s health-care system.  

The bill proposes to significantly roll back Medicaid coverage. It would allow states to deny coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions, and allow states to eliminate so-called essential health benefits for services such as prescription drugs, maternity care and mental-health treatment.

Dr. Greta Mayer is CEO of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison Counties. She says the proposal could hamper Ohio’s efforts to battle the opioid epidemic.

“What Medicaid expansion did for us that was so important," she says, "was it covered individuals who never before had access to addiction treatment, so when we're looking at the opiate epidemic the Medicaid expansion was really critical. And it’s not just Medicaid we're talking about. We need to make sure that there is coverage through our other private insurers for addiction and mental health treatment.” 

The bill next heads to the Senate for consideration. A previous attempt by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed to gain enough support to come to a vote.
The Associated Press reports the latest proposal could face opposition from 21 GOP opponents, "one short of the number that would kill the measure if all Democrats voted no," according to the AP.

In a statement, Republican Sen. Rob Portman expressed concern the GOP bill does not do enough to protect people receiving treatment for opioid addiction.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said the Republican health care plan, "could rip care away from up to 900,000 Ohioans, including more than 200,000 Ohioans receiving treatment for opioid addiction. The plan also weakens protections for those living with pre-existing conditions, and does nothing to lower costs or improve care for Ohioans."

Read more about the proposed House health bill on NPR.org

Find out how your representatives voted in this Washington Post vote tracker.  

Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding America initiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.
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