Medicaid cuts would hurt opioid epidemic efforts, experts tell White House

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Cuts to Medicaid, whether they are in President Trump's budget or via the GOP healthcare bill, would hurt efforts to curb opioid addiction, according to attendees at the White House's first panel on opioids Friday.

Similar to long-term care, Medicaid is the largest national payer for mental illness and addiction treatment.

“To successfully fight back these epidemics of addiction and suicide, Medicaid must continue as an entitlement,” said Joe Parks, M.D., Medical Director at the National Council for Behavioral Health, in his testimony. “Those drugs like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, including long-acting Vivitrol, need to be categorized as a protected medication class in Medicaid and in Medicare part D, requiring their open access on formularies so doctors can prescribe them. All people need to have access to clinicians who know how to treat and are willing to treat mental illness and addictions.”

In his budget, the president proposed to cut Medicaid spending by more than $600 billion over a decade. That would be in addition to a proposed $800 billion cut in the GOP's American Health Care Act.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats started an offensive Monday to protest the secrecy around the GOP's bill discussions in that chamber. Since moving to the Senate, Republicans have met in closed-door sessions to discuss their version of the bill, with a push to vote before the July 4 recess. As a protest, the Senate Democrats planned to object to routine requests Monday night, which would slow any action.