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ACA’s repeal would devastate fight against opioid addiction, researchers find

From The Morning Call:

ACA’s repeal would devastate fight against opioid addiction, researchers find

by Sam Kennedy

Funding for mental illness and opioid addiction treatment in Pennsylvania will take a big hit if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, according to research published this week by Harvard Medical School.

More than 181,000 Pennsylvania residents with mental and substance abuse disorders will lose access to services made available under the ACA, concluded Harvard health economics professor Richard G. Frank and New York University public service dean Sherry Glied.

Nationwide, repeal would cut at least $5.5 billion in federal funding that helps more than 1 million people with serious mental disorders and nearly 3 million with substance use disorders — of whom more than 200,000 are opioid-addicted, the researchers found.

The 21st Century Cures Act, which Congress passed last month with the support of overwhelming bipartisan majorities, authorized a $1 billion increase in treatment over two years, Frank and Glied noted in an article in The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C.

“It would be a cruel sham for Congress to take an important, but modest, step forward in investing in treatment capacity, while withdrawing funds from the enormous recent progress made in addressing the needs for care of those with mental health and addictive illness,” they wrote.

The ACA is credited with extending health insurance to 20 million people. To its opponents, however, it is the ultimate symbol of government overreach — an ill-fitting bureaucratic response to problems the marketplace is better suited to resolve on its own.

Republicans, including President-elect Donald Trump and GOP leaders of both the Senate and the House, have promised to undo Obamacare, as the law is widely known. Though they’ve said they’ll replace it with something better, they’ve yet to put forth specifics.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans took their first major step toward repeal, voting 51-48 along party lines for a budget blueprint that would allow them to gut the health care law without the threat of a Democratic filibuster.

Of the Pennsylvanians with mental and substance abuse disorders who stand to lose services, nearly 100,000 are covered through ACA marketplace insurance, Frank and Glied found. The remaining 81,000 residents receive coverage through an ACA-authorized expansion of Medicaid.

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