Don’t End Federal Support for Substance Abuse Treatment

Target: Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, United States House of Representatives

Goal: Ensure Republican health reform package does not remove mandate for addiction treatment coverage or end Medicaid expansion.

The Republican-backed American Health Care Act removes mandated insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment starting in 2020. This comes at a time when the United States is in the midst of an opioid addiction epidemic impacting thousands of individuals and families each year. President Trump himself has recognized the crisis, pledging to “expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted” during his presidential campaign.

Over-prescription of pain killers, falling street prices for heroin and an historical lack of support for drug treatment have fueled a dramatic rise in opiate addiction, with an estimated 501,000 heroin users in 2016. Drug overdose is currently the number one cause of accidental death in the United States, with 52,000 lethal overdoses in 2015. The Affordable Care Act attempted to address the emerging crisis by designating addiction treatment as an ‘essential benefit’ which must be covered through Medicaid and all federally subsidized insurance plans offered on state exchanges. This provision injected much-needed resources for drug treatment, especially in states that participated in Medicaid expansion. Medicaid covers over 45 percent of treatment related costs in three of those states, West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, which are also some of the most impacted by the opiate epidemic. Over 215,000 people in those states alone received treatment through the Affordable Care Act.

A rollback of federal support for substance abuse treatment and Medicaid expansion would likely worsen the addiction epidemic. The 19 states that opted not to expand Medicaid through the ACA provide a glimpse of the potential impact. These states primarily rely on inconsistent funding sources for addiction treatment, which has led to long wait lists for entry into treatment facilities, lack of funding to provide critical recovery maintenance medications such as Suboxone, and rising drop-out rates as users are no longer able to afford treatment.

Several Republican governors, such as John Kasich of Ohio, have publicly acknowledged the critical role Medicaid expansion has played in providing increased access to drug treatment. This was underscored by legislation passed with bipartisan support by Congress in 2016, which provides $1 billion in assistance to states for addiction services. Those resources would be inaccessible to a significant number if Medicaid expansion is not maintained in the proposed American Health Care Act. Please sign the below petition demanding Congress only pass a health reform package that maintains mandated coverage for addiction services.


Dear Speaker Ryan,

I am writing to demand that you amend the American Health Care Act to preserve both mandated coverage for substance abuse services and Medicaid expansion. As you are aware, the United States is currently battling an historic opioid epidemic which claimed the lives of over 50,000 individuals in 2015 alone. The answer to this crisis is not to strip away funding urgently needed by states to address substance abuse.

There is a growing revolt within your own party against the AHCA in its current form. You must realize that both your position as speaker and the Republican majorities in Congress are riding on the outcome of this legislation.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: JohnnyMrNinja

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One Comment

  1. Gen Lovyet Agustsson says:

    no more abuses!

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