6/9/17 Erik Paulsen Correspondence Corner : Economic Aspects of the Opioid Crisis

PREFACE :
Erik Paulsen regularly issues a video Correspondence Corner in which he responds to constituent questions.
It is a great ploy — Congressman Paulsen determines what question is to be answered … thus, providing him an opportunity to portray himself as effectively responding to issues that he wishes to address as if they are the most critical issues that voters want addressed.
The MN Political Roundtable will be evaluating Congressman Paulsen’s responses and encouraging readers to offer their own assessments.

Yesterday’s topic, H.R. 10 The Financial CHOICE Act.
Today’s topic, the Economic Aspects of the Opioid Crisis

What’s that adage — the first step to solving a problem, is to admit that you have a problem — well, for a MathGuy, ya gotta wonder if it is easier to ignore a problem if the costs – either economic or political – are acceptable until the headlines hit home.

Hence, for the MathGuy, issues like climate change or gun violence can be ignored … but then somebody famous becomes part of the story … and when Congressman Paulsen spoke at the Joint Economic Committee Hearing entitled “Economic Aspects of the Opioid Crisis”, he emphasized that this epidemic does not discriminate and affects people from all walks of life, including music legend Prince, who passed away last year from fentanyl at his Chanhassen home, to a Maple Grove male’s death from acrylfentanyl.

Congressman Paulsen is correct … drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. Congressman Paulsen estimated the number at 60,000 in 2016 which is UP from the 52,404 recorded in 2015 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report … and no state is exempt.

Regardless of the fact that opioid drug overdoses resulting in death has doubled during Erik Paulsen’s congressional tenure, let’s credit him for talking about the problem.
So, the first step is taken … admitting that we have a problem.
Now, the next step is the solution … and that is where the MathGuy becomes silent.

Congressman Paulsen heard from Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee, that the economic costs of addiction are enormous – totaling more than $80 billion in 2013 from increased health care costs, higher rates of incarceration, and lost productivity

“Addiction to heroin and prescription opioid pain relievers is a public health epidemic that is devastating families and communities across the country.
At exactly the time Congress should be giving states more tools to fight this epidemic, House Republicans passed a bill that would repeal Medicaid expansion, artificially cap the program, and shift the burden about who and what to cut onto states.
More than a million people who have been able to secure treatment for substance abuse would lose their coverage.”

Hmmm … during Congressman Paulsen’s Correspondence Corner presentation, he failed to mention Senator Heinrich’s remarks or to remind his constituents that he fully embraced H.R. 1628 the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA) which requires more than $800 billion in cuts to federal Medicaid spending over the next decade … plus allowing individual states to define “Essential Health Benefits” which must be provided.

If the Paulsen-backed bill is enacted, substance-abuse treatment is viewed as the benefit “most at risk” to be eliminated.

Approximately 1.84 million people in the US are receiving treatment for substance-use disorders or mental illnesses through the Medicaid expansion or the ACA’s individual insurance marketplace, according to research conducted by Richard Frank, a professor of health economics at Harvard Medical School, and Sherry Glied, a dean at New York University.

A 2017 Health and Human Services report found that approximately 34% of individual-market insurance plans did not cover substance-abuse treatment before the Affordable Care Act.

Under the AHCA, a similar number would most likely either not cover treatment or begin underwriting substance-use disorder as a preexisting condition for thousands of dollars in premium surcharges, making insurance prohibitively expensive.

Gary Mendell, the CEO of Shatterproof, a national nonprofit working to end the opioid crisis, commented on the Paulsen-backed legislation “It’s unbelievable that in the middle of a crisis our legislators would even consider reducing access to insurance for those needing treatment for substance-use disorder.”

To make matters worse for the MathGuy, President Trump is pushing even deeper cuts — over $1.4 trillion to Medicaid over the next decade and $400 million in cuts at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by targeting cuts to the drug-free communities program and high-intensity drug trafficking program, as well as staffing cuts at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Yet, we know the MathGuy’s solution … “Washington must do more with less” … so Congressman Paulsen will fully embrace tax cuts and then “assume” the overall “drug enforcement” budget can absorb these tasks.

Watch his June 9th Correspondence Corner and offer your comments.

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