How the Opioid Fight is Threatened by Healthcare Reform

The GOP’s latest plan to kill Obamacare could hurt the fight against opioid addiction just as it shows signs of progress.
Greg Miller, with his severely chapped hands from working with glass, shows the suboxone medication that he takes daily on March 25, 2016 in Mt. Airy, Maryland.
05_05_Opioid_02 Source: Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post/Getty

It was an uncharacteristically quiet afternoon at Dee’s Place, a warehouse turned community center tucked down an alleyway in blighted east Baltimore, but Deborah Agus was nervous. Perched on one of the metal folding chairs that lined part of the warehouse, she alternated between cautious optimism and anxiety about the future of the opioid treatment programs she runs.

The root of her fears lies about an hour away, in Washington, D.C., where Republicans are pushing a new plan to repeal Obamacare and fundamentally restructure Medicaid, the 50-year-old government health program that covers America’s poor and disabled. Obamacare not only made people in Agus’s program—mostly poor working men—eligible for Medicaid but also helped them access the health care services they need to deal with addiction, as well as the panoply of health issues that often accompany it. “For our program, getting people on Medicaid is key,” says Agus, adding that the Republicans’ plan to dramatically shrink federal Medicaid funding would be “devastating.” She was hopeful, however, that it wouldn’t pass.

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