Healthcare

Senate Dems want $45B to address opioid epidemic

Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Wednesday to invest $45 billion to fight the opioid epidemic, just a day before President Trump is slated to announce how his administration will combat the crisis.

“The Trump administration’s plan to address the opioid epidemic has been little more than empty words and broken promises,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a press release. “What we need to fight this scourge is continued and reliable long-term investments in prevention, treatment, recovery and monitoring.”

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Last week, Trump said he would officially declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, two months after he said his administration was drafting the paperwork to do so. The White House is holding an opioid event on Thursday, suggesting that is when the declaration could be made.

Some advocates and lawmakers have said any such declaration needs to come with significant federal funding to be effective, foreshadowing a possible funding fight in Congress. A total of fourteen Democrats, along with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), introduced the legislation.

Markey noted that “Republicans have already agreed to this funding language in other recent health debates, and I hope they will once again agree to work with us to get this passed.”

The $45 billion figure is similar to the amount of funding included in the Senate’s ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill.

During the ObamaCare repeal-and-replace debate, Republican leadership initially included $2 billion to fight the opioid epidemic in its bill.

But another $45 billion was eventually added. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) — both of whom come from states hit hard by the epidemic — pushed for more money. The legislation would have ended Medicaid expansion, which is a large payer of behavioral health services, and it was thought that the billions of dollars could have helped, in part, to fill the gap.

Last year, Congress, with large bipartisan support, passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which authorized grants to help states curb the epidemic of prescription painkillers and heroin. The 21st Century Cures bill gave a total of $1 billion over two years to address the epidemic.

Tags Angus King Ed Markey Rob Portman Shelley Moore Capito

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