Trump officials approve Medicaid waivers for opioid treatment

Trump officials approve Medicaid waivers for opioid treatment
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

The Trump administration approved Medicaid waivers in Utah and New Jersey to help improve access to treatment for opioid addiction, according to the states’ governors.

The waivers were the first to be approved under a new policy from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that will allow states to design demonstration projects to let Medicaid to pay for opioid use disorder treatments.

CMS called for more states to apply in a Nov. 1 letter to Medicaid directors.

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The new policy comes after President Trump last week declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency,” and builds on the administration’s plan to grant states more flexibility with their Medicaid programs.

“Previous policies ignored the growing urgency of the national opioid epidemic and instead put onerous requirements on states that ultimately prevented individuals from accessing these needed services,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “The Trump administration’s approach reflects the pressing nature of the issues states are facing on the ground.”

In Utah, the waiver approval is a limited expansion of Medicaid that will expand treatment to up to 6,000 childless adults who are either homeless, involved in the criminal justice system or need substance abuse treatment.

Those newly eligible for Medicaid also can’t earn more than 5 percent over the federal poverty level.

The waiver approval does not include proposed amendments that were submitted to CMS in August, which included a work requirement and limits on eligible months of coverage.

Utah has not fully expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare, which would give the state increased federal funding to care for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

In a statement, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) praised the administration.

“Today's announcement allows us to address the specific challenge of extending health care coverage — including substance abuse and mental health services — to the homeless population,” Herbert said. “I commend the Trump administration for approving our waiver request, and look forward to providing these critical services.”

New Jersey also received a waiver to allow Medicaid funds to pay for residential withdrawal management treatment, medication-assisted treatment, peer supports and targeted case management.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) in a statement said the waiver will give “thousands more New Jerseyans with the disease of addiction” access to treatment and recovery.