ACA repeal could result in billions slashed from funds used to treat opioid addicts, experts say

A repeal of the ACA's mental and substance use disorder coverage provisions without a replacement would slash at least $5.5 billion annually for the treatment of people with mental and substance use disorders with low incomes, according to data compiled by academic researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston and New York University.

Furthermore, repealing the ACA would also undermine the 21st Century Cures Act's commitment of $1 billion over two years to curb rates of opioid misuse and abuse, according to an op-ed in The Hill written by Richard Frank, PhD, a professor of health economics at Harvard, and Sherry Glied, PhD, dean of NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

"It would be a cruel sham for Congress to take an important, but modest, step forward in investing in treatment capacity, while withdrawing funds from the enormous recent progress made in addressing the needs for care of those with mental health and addictive illnesses," wrote Dr. Frank and Dr. Glied.

Research cited by the two op-ed contributors suggests an ACA repeal sans replacement would result in approximately 1,253,000 people with serious mental disorders and about 2.8 million Americans with a substance use disorder — of which approximately 222,000 suffer from opioid addiction — losing portions or all of their insurance coverage.

"Without the foundation of that ongoing financial support, those in the eye of the opioid storm and those who live in society's shadows due to serious mental illnesses will continue to die of untreated illness, and their communities will continue to pay for the jails, prisons and homeless shelters that serve as our de-facto service system for many with these conditions," wrote Dr. Frank and Dr. Glied.

More articles on population health: 
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Diabetes-related kidney failure sees sharp decline among Native Americans 
Baltimore police can now send drug users to treatment, not jail

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