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The attorneys general of 19 states and the District of Columbia announced recently that they had formed a coalition urging Congress to include adequate drug treatment funding in any potential legislation seeking to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The attorneys general argue that during a growing national drug epidemic – such as the opioid crisis – any rollbacks of addiction treatment services would be disastrous for the states and their citizens.

The coalition is led by Kentucky Attorney General, Andy Beshear, and includes the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

A letter released by the attorneys general notes that the plans recently considered by Congress would cut funding for drug treatment services by an estimated $5.5 billion. Moving to a proposed “block grant” form of funding Medicaid would put an additional $7.9 billion in addiction treatment funding at risk, representing 25 percent of all addiction treatment funding nationally.

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One of the cornerstones of the ACA is its required coverage by all health plans of what are considered 10 essential healthcare benefits. Included among these is coverage for addiction treatment services, which are used to provide service to an estimated 2.8 million Americans. The attorneys general argue that this required coverage of addiction treatment services is essential to the states in their fight against the growing opioid epidemic.

The move comes as drug overdose deaths have hit an all-time high across the U.S. Data from the National Institutes of Health indicates that in 2015 there were nearly 50,000 deaths resulting from drug overdoses, of which nearly 35,000 were attributable to opioids. This figure represents a nearly 2.2-fold increase over 2002, when there were approximately 23,500 overdose deaths per year. When looking at only deaths attributable to opioids, the figure rises to a 2.8-fold increase, underscoring states need for continued support for addiction treatment services. – BY FOCUS, a Leonine Business

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