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« Letter to Editor - Self-congratulatory missive from Congressman Lee Zeldin | Main | Letters To Editor - East Hampton Airport Commuter Charter Flights Endanger Health And Pollute »

Letter to Editor - Zeldin Champions Healthcare Bill That Eviscerates Addiction Coverage

I read Mr. Zeldin’s op-ed concerning the opioid epidemic in wonderment.  It is hard to disagree with his view that the opiod epidemic is a crisis America needs to confront.  But, to see Mr. Zeldin pound his chest over his so-called achievements is an insult to all of us. 

He has already broken his promise to “continue working to advance legislation that helps those coping with drug addiction, by increasing treatment and recovery services to stop the tragic loss of life, family, and community as a result of addiction.”  House Republicans just approved a health care bill (of which Mr. Zeldin is still an outspoken champion) that, in the view of experts, make the epidemic even worse — by repealing Obamacare protections for access to drug addiction treatment. 

The Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) required insurers to cover ten essential health benefits, one of which is mental health services and addiction treatment. 

In contrast, the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), the Republican health care bill, allows states to get waivers to this requirement that would allow state insurers to exclude mental health services and addiction treatment from the coverage available.  

Before Obamacare, it was fairly common for insurers to leave out addiction treatment in their plans. If someone with a drug use disorder wanted coverage, she would need to find a more expensive plan that did include addiction treatment — and perhaps she wouldn’t be able to find a plan, particularly an affordable one, at all.  Obamacare solved that problem.

An analysis of Obamacare concluded that it helped 2.8 million Americans with drug use disorders and nearly 1.3 million with serious mental disorders. Under Mr. Zeldin’s AHCA, these people would stand to lose addiction and mental health coverage if essential health benefits were repealed. 

The AHCA’s waiver provision is not the only hurdle to obtaining addiction coverage.  Several other aspects of the AHCA threaten to reduce health coverage, particularly to people who rely on coverage to get drug treatment. 

Over the next few years, the AHCA would phase out the Medicaid expansion. It would pull back Obamacare’s tax credits, as well as regulations that shield older people from high premiums, effectively making coverage more expensive for older, low- income Americans.  It also cuts Medicaid by transitioning its benefits to a “per capita cap” system or a block grant system that gives states less money for the program, on top of imposing a work requirement for Medicaid eligibility. 

Obviously, losing access to Medicaid and other insurance would hurt a lot of people in general, removing access to any health care. But one of the forms of health care that is most affected here would be coverage for drug treatment. And those most affected will low-income people, for whom the cost of insurance will not be offset by the proposed tax credit plan under the AHCA.  This group simply will not be able to afford addiction-related care.  So millions of Americans with drug use disorders stand to suffer under the bill — in the middle of the deadliest drug crisis in US history. 

For Mr. Zeldin to brag about his efforts to fight the opiod endemic in the face of championing a healthcare bill that will eviscerate coverage borders on outrage.  This is just a continuation of his penchant for deceiving his constituency over his actions in Congress.  

Bruce Colbath

Reader Comments (1)

I've got a great idea - don't do drugs in the first place.
Thu, June 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEdward P. Gary

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