Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price came to New Hampshire to host a roundtable discussion on the American Health Care Act and it impact on access to healthcare and substance misuse treatment in New Hampshire.
The AHCA has very little support, except for those inside the Republican Party, for its cuts to programs designed to help states combat the growing opioid addition. This include NH’s Governor Chris Sununu.
Over the weekend, Republican Governor Chris Sununu praised the recently passed Trumpcare bill, calling it a “great message” to the American people and saying he was “glad they pass something.” The governor also wanted to see Congress give him the power to opt-out of providing coverage for substance abuse treatment.
New Hampshire has the third-most per capita deaths by drug overdose and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) called the state “ground zero” for the opioid epidemic. Sununu is welcoming Trumpcare architect, Health & Human Services Secretary Tom Price to the state on Wednesday to discuss the opioid crisis just days after the governor expressed interest in cutting off coverage for substance abuse victims.
“It’s a mystery what exactly made Governor Sununu throw his support behind the most recent and cruelest version of Trumpcare, but it could do with the amendments that allows states to deny coverage and hike up premiums for more Americans,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “Sununu’s idea to give states the option to deny coverage for substance abuse treatment is heartless. The governor’s purely ideological stance would weaken New Hampshire’s ability to combat our largest and most urgent issue.”
This weekend, the New Hampshire Hospital Association called the bill “a significant step backward.” New Hampshire Health Care Association said they couldn’t “imagine how care in New Hampshire ultimately survives this blow,” and the CEO of Catholic Medical Center said the bill would “result in dramatic increase in uncompensated care costs.”
Two new reports analyze ways in which Trumpcare would damage Granite Staters. Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of the AHCA found that a 60-year old in New Hampshire making $20,000 a year would pay 607% more in premiums than under the ACA. New Futures calculated the cost of substance abuse in New Hampshire as upwards of $2 billion annually, underscoring the need for federal assistance. Rather than increase federal money, Trumpcare would cut Medicaid by $880 billion and phase out Medicaid Expansion by 2020.
Sununu also asked for the power to opt-out of providing mental health coverage. The Trumpcare bill that just passed the House offers two key opt-out provisions. One provision would allow states to opt out of guaranteeing “essential health benefits” and the other would effectively allow insurance companies to charge an unlimited amount in monthly premiums to those with preexisting conditions.
In advance of Secretary Price’s visit, Congresswoman Annie Kuster wrote to the Secretary and inquired about the Trump Administration’s commitment to ensuring coverage for those with preexisting conditions, protecting rural hospitals, supporting treatment and recovery services for substance misuse, and avoiding cost increases for older Americans.
“I was glad to have the opportunity to express my concerns about the American Health Care Act with Secretary Price this afternoon,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “In New Hampshire, Medicaid expansion offered through the ACA has played an important role in getting thousands of Granite Staters seeking recovery services the treatment and care they need. Nearly every participant at today’s listening session highlighted the critical need to continue Medicaid expansion in our state. The Republican healthcare bill poses a serious threat to efforts to address the opioid crisis in New Hampshire and across the country. I hope that after hearing from people in New Hampshire, Secretary Price will have an appreciation for the importance of preserving access to treatment and recovery services that were established by the ACA. Rather than pursue partisan efforts to repeal the ACA, I urge my colleagues to come together in good faith to work to improve access to healthcare for all Americans.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen said the AHCA “decimates Medicaid” and removes requirements for insurance companies to “cover substance misuse” treatments.
“Considering Secretary Price played a lead role in crafting the Republican leadership’s healthcare repeal bill, I hope that he will take to heart the significant concerns of Granite Staters who are extremely alarmed about the impact that this legislation would have on their lives,” said Senator Shaheen.
“Today, Secretary Price said the Trump administration’s focus is to provide coverage and care to every American, but his words don’t match the administration’s actions. The Republican leadership’s healthcare repeal bill decimates Medicaid, and eliminates the program’s expansion and the federal requirement that insurance plans cover substance misuse treatment. Taken together, these policies would not only take a wrecking ball to our state’s progress to address the opioid epidemic, but put us in a far worse position than ever before. These tools are fundamental to New Hampshire’s efforts to provide treatment to Granite Staters who desperately need it. Needless to say, a listening tour would have been much more appropriate prior to pushing this healthcare repeal legislation through the House of Representatives without any hearings,” Shaheen added.
Senator Maggie Hassan is also opposed to the AHCA and is “deeply concerned” about the cuts to the office “tasked with coordinating the federal government’s response to the substance misuse crisis.”
“While I appreciate Secretary Price’s visit to New Hampshire to highlight the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid epidemic devastating our state, there remains a troubling disconnect between the Trump Administration’s words and its proposals, which would significantly harm our ability to combat this crisis. The Trumpcare proposal being pushed by Secretary Price would be devastating to those on the front lines of this crisis – from slashing the traditional Medicaid program, to ending New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan and undermining the requirement that insurance companies cover substance use disorder treatment. I am also deeply concerned by reports that the White House is considering effectively eliminating the office tasked with coordinating the federal government’s response to the substance misuse crisis.”
“I hope that Secretary Price listened closely and learned from the discussion in which participants largely focused on the importance of Medicaid expansion and the critical role it plays in our efforts to combat substance misuse and save lives.”
As the day moved on, Secretary Price continued his listening tour but decided to lock out local media outlets.
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter blasted them in her statement.
“If an HHS Secretary hosts a so-called ‘opioid listening tour’ and doesn’t allow the public or press to hear it, does it make a difference? People in New Hampshire are tired of hearing all talk on the opioid crisis and no action from Washington Republicans – and in fact, Secretary Price has spent the last few weeks pushing policies that would send us backwards in this fight. Perhaps Secretary Price kicked the press out of his roundtable because he knows his support for kicking millions off health care and ending key heroin-fighting programs is indefensible. Maybe he didn’t want to face the Granite Staters who now have access to treatment for opioid misuse, but who would lose coverage under the Republican health care bill, which repeals the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Or maybe he didn’t have an explanation for why just last week, the White House proposed drastic cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the office that has been coordinating the federal response to the opioid emergency, and proposed ending the award-winning New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. Secretary Price and the Trump Administration should get to work on concrete actions that show a real commitment to turning this tide, and to making sure nobody in New Hampshire loses their health care.”
The AHCA would kick an estimated 24 million off their healthcare. It would gut Medicare and give massive tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy.