President Trump said the Senate healthcare bill should have more “heart” than the House version, but behavioral healthcare experts reviewing the Senate draft after its release today don’t believe it contains any heart at all. For one, the bill would end Medicaid expansion by phasing it out, beginning in 2020.
“We’re very concerned that what’s being called a repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act is really a major attack on Medicaid,” Chuck Ingoglia, senior vice president, public policy and practice improvement for National Council for Behavioral Health tells Behavioral Healthcare Executive. “It will result in massive cost shifting to the states, and the only logical conclusion one could draw is that states will have to radically reduce their Medicaid programs in the future, which does not bode well for people with serious mental illness.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) proposed adding to the bill $45 billion (over 10 years) to support efforts to combat addiction. The current bill adds $2 billion in funding for 2018.
“We opposed it when it was $45 billion, and we oppose it now at $2 billion because it does not make up for what is lost in this bill,” Ingoglia says. “Further, people with substance use disorders have other conditions and mental health issues, and that’s just not enough money to adequately address those.”
In terms of what might be a more reasonable amount of federal funding for the opioid crisis, observers are beginning to float the number $190 billion over 10 years, according to McClatchy.
Democrats, who lamented the Senate Republicans’ closed-door process in designing the healthcare proposal, are concerned about the effect Medicaid cuts will have on individuals with addiction disorders.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in a statement , “This bill takes away the number one tool we have in the fight against opioids—Medicaid treatment.”
According to Brown, last year, Ohio alone spent nearly $1 billion on the opioid crisis, and Medicaid covered 70% of it.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf also said the Senate version is more heartless than the House bill because of the devastating cuts to Medicaid, according to the Olympian.
In an emailed statement, Craig Obey, Deputy Executive Director of Families USA, called the bill “disastrous,” and “equally heartless,” saying Republicans should be “ashamed.”