Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jan 2017
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Copyright: 2017 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Author: Antoinette Kraus


Repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan is dangerous
for the health and economic well-being of our Commonwealth. A new Harvard
Medical School and New York University study shows that repealing the ACA
would have tragic consequences for millions of Americans affected by
mental illness and by the devastating opioid epidemic. 180,526
Pennsylvanians suffering from mental illness or substance use disorder
will lose access to critical mental health services that the ACA makes

Pennsylvania ranks among the highest in the nation in opioid
overdose-related deaths and prescribing rates. Nationwide, the study
estimates that more than 4 million Americans with serious mental illness
or substance use disorders, of whom about 222,000 have an opioid use
disorder, would lose some or all of their insurance coverage.

From Philadelphia to Scranton to Pittsburgh, the opioid epidemic is
devastating families throughout Pennsylvania. In fact, we are in the midst
of the worst overdose epidemic ever, with the State ranking third in the
country for drug related deaths. Mothers, fathers, and children are losing
their lives to addiction, but Congress's plans to repeal the ACA without a
replacement would leave them in the cold, without access to the treatment
they need.

Dane is one of the 180,526 Pennsylvanians who will be left out in the
cold. He is from Schuykill County near Pottsville and now lives in
Philadelphia. When he was 20 in 2010, he suffered a brain injury in a bike
accident. He was fortunate to be covered by his parents' plan that took
care of his immediate recovery.

When Dane aged off of his parents' plan, he was uninsured and started
working for a small business. While the company was too small to offer
health coverage, he was able to find a plan through the ACA that met his
needs. He used his coverage to get connected to a primary care doctor, who
helped identify depression related to his injury and got him on medication
to treat it.

The regular relationship that Dane built with his PCP helped him to
acknowledge that he was abusing alcohol and had had a substance use
disorder since the accident. Without the ACA and regular primary care, he
wouldn't have been in a position to acknowledge the problem, and it would
almost certainly have gotten worse.

After successfully completing treatment for alcohol abuse and getting
connected to a counselor, Dane lost his job. He was worried that his
recovery would be affected, but he learned that he was eligible for the
ACA's Medicaid expansion. It meant that he wouldn't have to deplete his
savings to pay for the medications he needs to support his recovery. Dane
is starting school now, but he's worried that if the ACA is repealed, he'd
be forced to go without the medications and care that keep him healthy.

The statistics related to addiction in Pennsylvania, and nationwide, are
bleak, and repealing the ACA would wipe out much of the progress we have
made. A report issued this week by the Department of Health and Human
Services shows how important the ACA has been to addressing opioid

Recently Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act with bipartisan
support, providing additional funding to increase treatment capacity for
opioid use and addiction nationwide. But repealing the ACA would withdraw
$5.5 billion each year from the treatment of people these disorders. This
makes no sense.

Congress should protect, not withdraw, critical funding and resources that
help hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians get the care they need.
Without it, what will happen to folks like Dane who turned their lives
around thanks to the ACA's coverage? What will happen to our local

Will that state budgets have to make up the difference? Then we, as
taxpayers, will also bear the burden.
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