We recently speculated that ObamaCare might have contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic, which has in turn driven down life expectancy in this country for the past two years. A new Senate report adds further support to this connection.Error loading player.
The report, produced by the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee’s majority staff, provides convincing evidence that ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion is at least partly to blame for the recent opioid epidemic.
The Senate report notes that those with a Medicaid card can get prescriptions for opioids, such as oxycodone, for as little as $1 for up to 240 pills. Those pills, however, can be sold on the street for up to $4,000.That has created a powerful incentive for millions to get prescriptions and end up either getting addicted themselves or selling the pills on the black market.
By vastly expanding Medicaid, ObamaCare contributed significantly to this problem, the Senate report found.ObamaCare opened Medicaid up to those with incomes of up to 133% of poverty level, as well as childless adults. To get states to sign onto the expansion, the federal government covered all the costs of the expansion for the first three years, a share that goes down to 90% by 2020 (which is still significantly higher than the 50% share the government pays for previously eligible Medicaid enrollees).Not surprisingly, 33 states took the bait — with several more now actively considering the move. As a result, ObamaCare added 13 million to the Medicaid rolls — a 26% increase.The Senate committee investigators found several pieces of evidence to support the connection between ObamaCare’s expansion and the opioid epidemic.
For example: The number of criminal Medicaid drug fraud cases was 55% higher in the four years after the ObamaCare expansion went into effect, compared with the four years before the expansion.
More than 80% of the Medicaid-opioid cases turned up by investigators were in Medicaid expansion states. Drug overdose death rates are rising “nearly twice as fast in expansion states as non-expansion states,” the report finds.What’s more, data from the Centers for Disease Control show that opioid overdose rates turned upward in 2014 — the year of the ObamaCare expansion.
The data also show that of the 15 states with the highest overdose rates in 2015, all but two were Medicaid expansion states. Of the 15 states with the lowest overdose rates, eight had not expanded Medicaid.No one, including the Senate committee staff, claims that ObamaCare is the only cause of this epidemic, nor is it the only federal program that ends up using taxpayer money to fuel illicit opioid sales.
The committee notes that Medicare and the Veterans Health Administration have played roles as well.Unfortunately, Democrats prefer to bury their heads in the sand. Sen. Claire McCaskill, the ranking Democrat on that committee, said, “This idea that Medicaid expansion is fueling the rise in opioid deaths is total hogwash. It is not supported by the facts. “Republicans haven’t been able to repeal ObamaCare, and even if they did, they’d likely keep the Medicaid expansion in place, given that many Republican governors are lobbying to keep it.
In the meantime, President Trump has provided states a way to trim their Medicaid rolls, and hopefully reduce the scale of the drug crisis, by letting states impose work requirements on those able-bodied people enrolled in the program.
But if lawmakers truly want to tackle this problem, they’re going to have to confront one of its driving forces by significantly reforming Medicaid and other federal health programs. Taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing an underground drug market that’s leading to increased addiction and deaths.