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August 17 2017

Medicaid Expansion, Opioid Expansion

by Hadley Heath

Of course, no one wants to see Americans perish at the hands of drug overdose. But the sad reality is that an opioid epidemic is sweeping the nation, killing more than 60,000 people each year. President Trump recently declared a national health emergency, meaning he's empowering state and national agencies to work together and form a more robust response.

As I wrote recently, the opioid epidemic is complex. There's no one factor that has caused it, but instead a host of cultural and economic factors contribute. This includes government policies

The Wall Street Journal editorial board highlighted another way the government might have unintentially played a part in the expansion of opioid abuse: the Medicaid expansion:

A recent study by Express Scripts Holding found that about a quarter of Medicaid patients were prescribed an opioid in 2015. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson presents intriguing evidence that the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare may be contributing to the rise in opioid abuse. According to a federal Health and Human Services analysis requested by the Senator, overdose deaths per million residents rose twice as fast in the 29 Medicaid expansion states—those that increased eligibility to 138% from 100% of the poverty line—than in the 21 non-expansion states between 2013 and 2015.

There were also marked disparities between neighboring states based on whether they opted into ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. Deaths increased twice as much in New Hampshire (108%) and Maryland (44%)—expansion states—than in Maine (55%) and Virginia (22%). Drug fatalities shot up by 41% in Ohio while climbing 3% in non-expansion Wisconsin.

The intention behind the Medicaid expansion was, undoubtedly, to help low-income people. But there have been unintended consequences. Emergency rooms have remained crowded (in some cases becoming more so), and there's been no evidence of improved health outcomes. This is because the Medicaid expansion didn't address the program's underlying flaws, but simply expanded it. True reform is needed to better help Medicaid patients get the care they need as individual patients, not as faceless "millions" counted on political scorecards. 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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