FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2017
Concord, NH — New Hampshire’s opioid crisis, already responsible for one of the highest incidences of drug-related deaths in the nation, could be further exacerbated by changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that may reduce access to treatment for substance use disorder. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points to the role the federal Medicaid program plays in helping New Hampshire and other states address the opioid crisis by ensuring that individuals with substance use disorders have access to covered treatment.
According to the report, New Hampshire had the second highest rate of drug-related death among all states in 2015. Federal cuts to the Medicaid and Medicaid Expansion programs would hamper New Hampshire’s ability to provide programs and services necessary to effectively address the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.
“New Hampshire cannot afford to address this problem alone,” said John Shea, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. “The federal dollars available to the state through the traditional and expanded Medicaid programs enable the state to ensure that individuals with substance use disorder can access a range of covered treatment services that not only improve their health, but also reduce the strain on the state’s public safety and first responder communities.”
Efforts to severely cut and cap funding for the Medicaid program could disproportionately affect millions of people with substance use disorders. The ACA parity provision provides that mental health and substance use disorder coverage are considered “essential health benefits,” requiring health insurers to provide this coverage and making it possible for individuals to access treatment that is covered by health insurance. The expansion of the Medicaid program enabled individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty line to access health coverage and treatment for substance use disorder. New Hampshire is one of several states that received federal approval to extend these substance use disorder benefits to the traditional Medicaid population, enabling enrollees to obtain screening, intervention, counseling, and treatment, among other covered services.
As currently structured, Medicaid expands to meet need, which ensures that states receive federal support to meet increasing demand for health care services, including public health challenges such as opioid addiction. Radically restructuring Medicaid’s financing system by converting it to a per capita cap, as has been proposed, would eliminate Medicaid’s automatic response to need, and shift costs to New Hampshire, likely forcing the state to cut services, reduce eligibility, and stop testing new models of treatment or recovery supports.
“Federal Medicaid dollars are vital to sustaining many of the state’s hospitals and community health centers, particularly those in rural and underserved regions of the state,” added Shea. “The loss of these federal funds would have a devastating effect on New Hampshire families and communities.”
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report, Building on ACA’s Success Would Help Millions with Substance Use Disorders, is available online at www.cbpp.org.
The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring, developing, and promoting public policies that foster economic opportunity and prosperity for all New Hampshire residents, with an emphasis on low- and moderate-income families and individuals. Learn more at www.nhfpi.org.