In the three years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect, its federally funded expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults has become the states’ most powerful weapon in the battle against the worsening opioid epidemic. As Congress and President Trump debate potential replacements for the law, governors, health care professionals and advocates for the poor are cautioning that any cut in federal funding for addiction treatment could reverse much of the progress states have made, reports Stateline. “The current plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would cut health care for our most vulnerable residents, including children, seniors and individuals suffering from opioid and heroin addiction,” says Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. “This will have a devastating impact for many Pennsylvanians.”
ACA offered states the ability to provide Medicaid coverage to adults without children, with the federal government paying most of the bill. That change, and the law’s mandate that all insurers cover addiction treatment at the same level as medical and surgical procedures, has allowed states to ensure that low-income people can get the care they need, said Linda Rosenberg of the National Council for Behavioral Health. Since 2014, an estimated 1.6 uninsured people with addictions have gained Medicaid coverage in the 31 states plus the District of Columbia that opted to expand the federal-state health care program under ACA. Not all of the newly insured have sought help for their addictions, but treatment providers are reporting a surge in new patients since the law took effect.