Schumer: Opioid Crisis Is So Immense and Awful, Senate GOP Must Reverse Course & Instead Work Across the Aisle to Protect Treatment Programs That Help Thousands of Upstate New Yorkers; Vows To Fight Bill And Urge His Colleagues To Do The Same

Senator Said Upstate Has Experienced An Explosion Of Drug Use and Death, Including From Fentanyl-Laced Heroin

Schumer: In the Face Of Wave of Opioid-Heroin Deaths, Eliminating Access To Drug Treatment Programs and Substance Abuse Care Would Be Disastrous for Upstate New York

On a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer sounded the alarm regarding the devastating impact the Senate GOP health care bill will have on the urgent fight to stem the tide of opioid-heroin abuse and death in New York. Schumer said that the current Senate bill will eviscerate Medicaid, which is the largest payer of substance use disorder services in the nation and the very program that people struggling to beat heroin and opioid addiction rely on. Schumer said the bill counterproductively cuts the legs out from under the vital effort to curb the opioid epidemic plaguing New York and the country.

“In the face of a tidal wave of opioid-induced addiction and death sweeping across Upstate New York, it is simply unconscionable that this healthcare bill would hurt so many of our fellow Americans trying to defeat drug addiction,” said Senator Schumer. “It’s almost impossible today to run into someone who hasn’t been directly impacted by this opioid and heroin crisis. Despite promises to address the issue, the Senate GOP health care bill is a huge step backwards that will only serve to exacerbate the opioid epidemic which has claimed the lives of countless New Yorkers. My colleagues should join with me to stop this bill in its tracks; we must be increasing our efforts to stem the opioid crisis, not cutting the legs out from under this vital effort by taking away healthcare from New York’s most vulnerable populations.

Schumer added, “While Tuesday’s delay was a small delay, we have a long battle ahead of us to protect funding to help New Yorkers suffering from drug addiction, and to face down this national crisis.”

Schumer said despite yesterday’s news that Republicans will not vote on their bill this week, they are still working day and night to try to pass it, meaning that New Yorkers cannot let up for even one moment in their fight to stop it. Medicaid works to help working and middle class families get the health care they need. In New York, 6,395,894 people are covered by Medicaid. Medicaid expansion reduced the uninsured rate in NY by 32 percent from 2013 to 2015, which included coverage for 44,759 people with serious mental health or substance abuse issues. Across the country in Medicaid expansion states, the share of substance use or mental health disorder hospitalizations involving patients without insurance fell from about 20 percent at the end of 2013 to about 5 percent by mid-2015.

In addition, this bill puts at risk those who now have health insurance through the individual market or through their employer. Under the Republican health care plan, states could seek waivers that allow insurers to offer plans that do not include coverage for conditions such as substance use care, mental health treatment and prescription drug coverage. This would mean that in a state that chooses to waive some or all of the Essential Health Benefits, coverage for substance abuse treatment for those addicted to opioids or heroine could no longer exist, and people would be forced to pay more out of pocket if they needed those services or not be able to get them at all. Also, based on these waivers, large employers would be allowed to once again impose annual and lifetime limits on their employees benefits. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, 60 percent of employer plans had a lifetime limit and a recent survey of large employers found that 1 in 5 would re-institute annual caps on their employees benefits if allowed. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that mental health and substance use benefits are among the services most likely to be waived, putting at risk New Yorkers who depend on their employer-based health insurance to provide the substance use and mental health treatment they need.

Schumer added, “I will be working day in and day out to stop this bill in its tracks. It is wrong for New Yorkers and the country. New York is making important progress on the opioid and heroin addiction problem, and this bill would send our state hurdling backwards. And Senate Republicans are doing all of this to provide a gigantic tax break for the wealthiest Americans.”

In 2015, more than 52,000 people in the U.S. died from opioid overdoses. In 2015, 1,135 individuals died of a drug overdose in Upstate New York. There have been massive increases in the number of deaths across New York State:

  • In the Capitol Region, in 2015, there were 106 opioid-related deaths, an increase of 96 from 2004.
  • In Central New York, in 2015, there were 158 opioid-related deaths, an increase of 156 from 2004
  • In the Rochester-Finger Lakes region, in 2015, there were 119 opioid-related deaths, an increase of 110 from 2004.
  • In Western New York, in 2015, there were 308 opioid-related deaths, an increase of 292 from 2004.
  • In the Southern Tier, in 2015, there were 90 opioid-related deaths, an increase of 88 from 2004.
  • In Hudson Valley, in 2015, there were 295 opioid-related deaths, an increase of 279 from 2004.
  • In the North Country, in 2015, there were 59 opioid-related deaths, an increase of 56 from 2004.

Schumer said that too many in New York State, especially Upstate, will suffer if the Republican backed bill passes, because Medicaid is critical to those suffering with heroin or opioid addiction. Currently, only about 1 in 4 people suffering from opioid abuse receives treatment, which implies that approximately 665,000 people with an opioid use disorder, including 343,000 low-income individuals, were treated in 2015. Such treatment comes at a cost: on average, Medicaid beneficiaries with opioid use disorders cost about $11,000 per year on average, compared with $3,300 per year for the average Medicaid adult. Pharmacy claims data show that the number of opioid treatment prescriptions increased an average of 11 percent over the period of 2012-2016. If that rate continues to rise, the number of people treated for opioid use disorder would rise from 343,000 in 2015 to 1.1 million in 2026. Based on projections by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the cost of care would also rise by an average of 5 percent annually. The average charges for opioid overdose patients treated and released from the emergency department are $3,397 per visit. Those admitted to the hospital rack up an average $29,497 in charges per hospitalization, leaving them vulnerable. From 2005 to 2014, according to the latest data available, opioid-related hospital visits increased nearly 65 percent, to 1.27 million emergency room visits or inpatient stays a year. Furthermore, hospital care for babies born suffering from opioid withdrawal costs an average of $66,700 per birth.


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