National Council for Mental Wellbeing

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September 19, 2017


Aaron Cohen, (301) 633-6773

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, the ugly health care debate reared its head again on Capitol Hill with the introduction of a new bill by Senators Graham (R-SC), Cassidy (R-LA), Heller (R-NV) and Johnson (R-WI) to drastically cut Medicaid and other federal health funds to states.

This bill may go by a different name than previous efforts to reshape the health care system, but it maintains—and even worsens—the devastating provisions from those bills that led to a massive constituent outcry earlier this summer. It’s the same pig with different lipstick.

Like past versions of the Senate health bill, the new legislation would result in catastrophic outcomes for the millions of Americans living with addiction or mental illness.

  • It caps federal Medicaid spending at a rate designed to grow more slowly than inflation, shifting costs to states and forcing them into difficult decisions about which populations and services to cut.
  • It repeals the Medicaid expansion, taking away states’ number one tool in fighting the opioid epidemic. Medicaid pays for 35-50% of all medication-assisted opioid treatment in states that have been hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, like Alaska, Ohio and West Virginia.
  • It eliminates subsidies that keep insurance affordable, stripping people with complex conditions like addiction or mental illness of the support they need to afford coverage.
  • It sets states up for future budget shortfalls, replacing the Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies with a block grant that would not grow in response to increased enrollment or costs.
  • It allows states to opt out of pre-existing coverage protections and essential health benefits, returning us to the days when people with addiction or mental illness could not get coverage for their conditions.

The results for Americans with addiction or mental illness are stark: massive coverage losses and reduced access to lifesaving treatment.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee has spent the past month working on bipartisan legislation that would stabilize the health insurance market and create a better health care system. With legislation from these efforts expected soon, now is not the time to renew the failed partisan effort that slashes billions of Medicaid dollars from state budgets, costing hundreds of thousands of lives.

We implore Senators to focus on the bipartisan efforts underway and ignore this politically-driven effort to rush a devastating bill through the Senate without time for debate and consideration of the impact on states and constituents.

Now is the time to unite across party lines, stand up for what is right and ensure that the millions of Americans facing addiction and mental illness continue to get the care they deserve.

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The National Council for Mental Wellbeing is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 2,900 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council helped introduce Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 1 million Americans have been trained.