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Report Estimates Reduced Substance Abuse Treatment Under ACA Repeal


As the Republican Congress continues to propose changes to the Affordable Care Act, a new report from a Washington D.C. think tank is estimating how changes to the healthcare bill could affect state efforts to curb opioid abuse.

Peggy Bailey works at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank that focuses on the federal government’s role with safety-net programs like Medicaid. In her new report, she says the proposals in last month’s failed Republican health plan would have had negative effects on addiction treatment programs.

"Taking away people’s health insurance is not going to help them access substance use treatment," Bailey says. 

According to the report, Utah ranks 9th nationwide in drug-related deaths due to substance use disorders. It estimates funding for Medicaid would drop by $2 billion in Utah under the previous Republican plan, reducing options for drug treatment.

"Having access to medically assisted treatment is something that insurance could definitely pay for and has in other states," Bailey says. 

Brent Kelsey is the Assistant Director of the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. He says since Utah did not expand Medicaid there’s already limited money for addiction treatment and people with substance use disorders.

"Right now, as our providers are trying to deal with them, 90 percent of the people we see are unfunded or uninsured. And so, you’re cobbling together money from as many different sources as you can to try to provide a standard of care,"  Kelsey says. 

Just how much programs like Medicaid change will depend on Congress as they decide whether to tweak the ACA or amend the Republican plan after their Easter recess.

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