Senate Healthcare Bill Could Cut Addiction Treatment for Millions of Patients

By Bryan Le 06/26/17

Mental health and addiction treatment advocates fear the cuts could leave millions of Americans without treatment.

Obamacare activists hold signs saying Republicans Mark Meadows, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and President Trump are the real ACA Death Panel
Opponents of the bill believe it could cost lives.

The health care bill proposed by Republican senators last Thursday reveals that they intend to make deep cuts to Medicaid—a program that pays for the treatment services of millions of United States citizens who suffer from mental health issues, including substance use disorders.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—Obama’s health care plan that the Republican-led senate is aiming to overturn—Medicaid actually expanded mental health care coverage. About 2.8 million people suffering from substance use disorders and 1.3 million with severe mental health issues received coverage for the first time under the ACA, but they could soon find themselves out in the cold.

Besides cutting billions of dollars of funding for Medicaid, the bill also allows states to waive requirements to cover particular health benefits—including mental health and addiction treatment. This would allow insurance companies to refuse to cover these treatments, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This could wreak havoc on the finances of less well-off families.

The cuts have been the subject of criticism from substance use disorder and mental health advocates.

"When a family is desperate to get a loved one into treatment and they don’t get coverage, they will go to great lengths," said Marcia Lee Taylor, president and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, according to Time. "We have so many parents who have taken out multiple mortgages on their homes to help their family members. Treatment is extremely expensive."

The American Psychiatric Association called the new health care bill “deeply flawed.” 

“The Senate proposal represents a significant move in the wrong direction, resulting in fewer people having access to insurance, fewer patient protections and less coverage for essential behavioral health care,” Dr. Saul Levin, CEO and medical director of the APA, said in a statement. “We urge the Senate to reject this harmful legislation and start again on a health care bill that puts patients first.”

Other critics feel this budgeting decision could cost lives:

“It’s so frustrating to see the Senate bill proposed as is... There is no margin of error for people getting addiction treatment,” said Dr. Leana Wen, commissioner of health for the city of Baltimore. “If people getting treatment were to stop, their alternative could be to overdose and die.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter