Report: Obama Responsible for Opioid Epidemic
Much has been said regarding the effects of the opioid epidemic across America and possible solutions to combat it, but not so much about the root causes and contributing factors that helped create the epidemic … until now.
According to the Washington Examiner, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, recently released a report which linked the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare with the spike in opioid abuse and overdose deaths.
The report, titled “Drugs for Dollars: How Medicaid Helps Fuel The Opioid Epidemic,” found that the expansion of Medicaid made the opioid epidemic worse by opening up access to formerly uninsured individuals who were then able to more easily acquire the dangerous drugs to be sold illegally on the streets.
“I’m not saying this is a primary cause,” cautioned Johnson during a committee hearing on the topic Wednesday. “I think what we are certainly saying is this is an unintended consequence.”
“It’s certainly a contributing factor. It maybe enables something that shouldn’t be enabled. It’s a very serious problem that has to be taken a look at,” he added.
As such, according to a media release from the chairman, a copy of the report and a cover letter summarizing it were sent to both Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric Hargen and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma for their consideration and input.
“The opioid epidemic is the nation’s most pressing public health crisis,” Johnson stated in the letter. “Although there are many factors contributing to the epidemic, and while Medicaid undoubtedly assists in treating opioid abuse, this examination presents evidence that the Medicaid program itself is also playing a role in driving the opioid epidemic.”
“This facet of the opioid epidemic cannot be ignored,” he added. “It is my hope that HHS and CMS will do a thorough review of Medicaid and work to stem the opioid epidemic.”
Of course, the Examiner noted that it is widely agreed upon that improper over-prescription of narcotic painkillers has been the biggest driver in the opioid epidemic — which claimed at least 42,249 lives in 2016 — and many Democrats rightly pointed out that the epidemic and increasing death toll began prior to the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare in 2014, as well as the fact that not all states expanded Medicaid as part of Obamacare.
Johnson ceded that point to his critical colleagues, but showed in his report that overdose deaths and criminal activity related to Medicaid spiked higher after 2014, especially in the states that had expanded the program.
Indeed, the report showed that since 2010, there have been at least 1,072 individuals charged and/or convicted of improperly using Medicaid to obtain prescription drugs, some of which were then sold on the streets. The number of criminal defendants per year increased by 18 percent after Medicaid expansion took effect in 2014.
Furthermore, of 298 specific Medicaid-opioid related cases, 80 percent of them occurred in states that expanded the program, and the number of cases exploded by 55 percent in those states after 2014.
The report also uncovered plenty of Medicaid reimbursement fraud related to prescription drugs, and found that a drug used to treat opioid addiction that was itself quite addictive — suboxone — was also increasingly a part of Medicaid fraud.
Incredibly, it was also detailed in the report how Medicaid spending on treating drug addiction and overdoses had risen dramatically, with the costs of one specific medication for opioid overdoses spiking by an astounding 90,205 percent between 2011-2016, much of that increase coming after 2014.
Finally, the report seemed to indicate that opioid abuse and related fraud weren’t confined to just Medicaid, as numerous cases of a similar nature were also discovered in both Medicare and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
As stated by Johnson, nobody is saying former President Barack Obama is personally responsible for fueling the opioid drug crisis roiling America right now, but his namesake health care law and the expansion of Medicaid that came with certainly didn’t help matters, and quite possibly made everything worse.
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