For now, the Senate Republican’s health care bill – the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) – is defeated. To many Americans, the idea of cutting their health benefits was too much, no matter the rosy picture presented by President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and others supporting the bill.
As the debate over the Better Care Reconciliation Act continues, there has been a pivotal turn in many politicians’ perspectives on health care – even those who previously opposed Obamacare. There may be one reason to explain this shift: the opioid epidemic. There are many pressing issues concerning health care, including increased costs. But the opioid epidemic, which some experts believe may kill over 90,000 Americans a year in the near future, is by far the most significant.
Quest Diagnostics’ annual drug testing data for 2016 revealed the highest rate of positive workforce drug tests in 12 years. Given the persistent opioid epidemic, this may not sound surprising. Except, the data show that the increase in positive drug screens were not attributed to heroin or prescription opioids, where rates remained stable or dropped. Instead, there were increases in positive drug screens for cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines. Notably, the data reflected that positive drug screens for marijuana were higher than the national average in Colorado and Washington, two states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
One of the major problems of today’s deadly opioid epidemic and persistent addiction crisis is lack of access to effective treatment. One of the major reasons people are unable to get treatment is the apparent lack of coverage by their health insurance plan. This continues to happen despite the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (Parity Act), a federal law that requires equitable insurance coverage for addiction treatment by most health plans.
Beginning on February 3rd, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) required Public Housing Agencies nationwide to implement a “smoke-free” environment. This rule prohibits the use of flammable tobacco products – including cigarettes, cigars, and hookah – inside all indoor areas of public housing units and within 25 feet of buildings. Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) nationwide now have until July of 2018 to implement the new smoke-free policy. Repeated violations will be enforced as a lease violation, meaning residents could be evicted from their homes.
Congress is hotly debating a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and there is significant debate about whether the Republican’s proposed bill is a suitable replacement that will address the problems attributed to the ACA (or, “Obamacare”). Ongoing discussions are focused on who will be harmed by and who will benefit from this proposed bill, called the American Health Care Act. At Center on Addiction, we are most concerned with how this bill will impact individuals suffering from addiction. Our analysis, explained below in greater detail, concludes that the proposed bill will endanger the lives of people with addiction.
One of the major themes of the 2016 presidential election was employment. The issue of high unemployment in certain areas of the country rose to national prominence and President Trump promised to bring jobs to these communities. Various causes were cited for unemployment, including globalization, trade agreements, technology, and regulations. Yet there was one contributing factor that was not discussed: addiction.
A consequence in the worsening opioid epidemic is the rising number of infants born with opioid dependence, also known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS is a health problem associated with fetal exposure to opioids which can cause excessive crying, rapid breathing, and slow weight gain. Seeking solutions for this issue, lawmakers have imposed reporting requirements for newborns that were exposed to opioids in the mother’s womb. Though NAS is a legitimate concern, these reporting requirements are not having their intended consequence. In fact, they are detrimental to the wellbeing of mothers with addiction and their infants.
In his final State of the State address, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vowed to spend his last year as governor aggressively and comprehensively fighting his state’s addiction crisis. Almost 1,600 people in New Jersey died from drug overdoses in 2015, a nearly 20 percent increase from 2014. Most of these deaths were from opioids.
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