Yesterday Georgia Congressman Tom Price faced questions from his democrat counterparts in his bid to ascend to the post of Secretary of Health and Human Services. Aside from some looming questions regarding ethics in stock trading, as well as a general review of his resume, the tense and, at times, downright contentious exchanges focused almost exclusively on Price’s republican colleagues’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Lawmakers loudly voiced their concern in short bursts of heated inquiry, wanting to know everything that Price and a republican majority plan to change, including existing women’s health services and the increased access to substance abuse services provided by the ACA.
Experts speculate the ACA, also known as Obamacare, has given approximately 32 million Americans access to addition and mental health care. Additionally, President Obama’s 2017 federal budget includes $500 million for the funding of mental health treatment services to help the approximately 20 percent of Americans struggling with this type of disease. Despite repeated plans to replace the existing law with healthcare reform of their own, the incoming administration has been limited in the disclosure of the specifics of their new plan. Price faced questions from multiple lawmakers about what a wholesale repeal would mean for the millions in America currently struggling with substance abuse and addiction.
One of the most direct and memorable lines of questioning came from New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan, whose state has the second highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the country. Hassan asked how rollback of the ACA, specifically the Medicaid expansion, would impact the thousands her vulnerable constituents, one of whom she spoke about in great length in an account of how the Medicaid expansion helped her recover from addiction through increased access to treatment. Hassan said that the woman was able to find care through the ACA and was subsequently able to get back on her feet and eventually off of Obamacare altogether. Finally Hassan asked Price for a guarantee that he will find the funds to continue the same level of treatment access should the current legislation be repealed.
The hearings highlighted a palpable uncertainty resonating through the addiction care landscape, and medical profession in general. Regardless of where one may fall on the political spectrum, it’s no stretch to say that the future of healthcare remains up in the air, and with it, the future of treatment options for those suffering from chemical dependency.