In a letter to President Donald Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, signed by Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, attorneys general from across the country urge continued funding for substance abuse treatment programs in any plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The initial ACA replacement plan which failed to make it to the House floor would have cut federal funding for drug treatment by an estimated $5.5 billion. With growing talk of trying to once again repeal and replace the ACA, Attorney General Kilmartin is concerned that funding for substance abuse treatment will be drastically reduced at a time when the state and country is trying to address the opioid abuse and addiction crisis.
"Last year in recognition that the issue of addiction and recovery should not be subject to petty political fighting, Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which provided funding for evidence-based research and enhanced recovery programs. To pull funding for substance abuse and drug treatment now would unravel the progress we have made in combatting this epidemic, and hurt those who need proper treatment," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
In Rhode Island, Attorney General Kilmartin has put forth legislation that would provide that an insurance provider may not deny continued residential or inpatient treatment coverage due to medical necessity and appropriateness of treatment if the subscriber has been admitted and is currently in residential or inpatient services for a mental health and/or substance use disorder and the provider of treatment has recommended continued residential or inpatient treatment.
The ACA currently allows significant and critical assistance for drug treatment, providing coverage to an additional 2.8 million Americans suffering from addiction. It requires both private plans and Medicaid to cover certain drug treatment.
The state attorneys general say this provision is essential in their fight against the growing drug epidemic that faces most states. Many attorneys general view the drug epidemic as the single greatest challenge facing their communities that are still recovering from the flood of addictive pain pills and now face a surge in drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil.
"In the midst of an ongoing public health crisis, the federal government cannot abandon this commitment to our communities," the group said in its letter. "Our nation faces a drug epidemic that grows more difficult and dangerous by the hour. These drugs are causing record numbers of overdoses and are destabilizing whole communities. It is our belief that the reported numbers of overdose deaths are only a fraction of the real toll."
The group says it is alarmed that moving to a block grant or capitated rate for Medicaid could further imperil the $7.9 billion in funding that represents 25 percent of all funding for drug treatment. The group says the loss of any form of coverage for 24 million Americans under any new proposed health plan will undoubtedly leave many Americans suffering from addiction with no means of securing or paying for treatment.
"We urge you to protect access to substance use treatment and maintain our partnership and necessary levels of federal funding as we work to tackle this deadly and destructive epidemic," the group said.
Attorneys General who signed the letter include the Attorneys General of: Kentucky, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.