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Brown blasts GOP draft of Affordable Care Act repeal

Portman says he will wait for final draft before deciding

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, blasted the Senate’s draft bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, citing its elimination of the Medicaid expansion and additional cuts to Medicaid — which his office said is one of the most important funding supports for the treatment of opioid addiction in Ohio.

“This bill takes away the number one tool we have in the fight against opioids — Medicaid treatment,” Brown said of the legislation, unveiled by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Thursday. “We can not allow Washington to rip the rug out from under Ohio communities. Instead of raising prices on people over 50 and working families, we should be working together to lower costs, fight the opioid epidemic and make healthcare work better for everyone.”

Brown cited a Harvard study, which found that more than 220,000 Ohioans with addiction or mental health disorders now have coverage under the Affordable Care Act — 151,257 through the Medicaid expansion and 69,225 under private insurance purchased through the marketplace. He said repeal would kick those people off of their insurance, “potentially disrupting treatment services for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans as they are fighting for their lives.”

Brown said the bill would also end the Medicaid expansion, which he said allows thousands of Ohioans to get treatment, and replace it with just $2 billion to address the opioid crisis in the entire country.

Last year, Ohio spent nearly $1 billion on the opioid epidemic. Medicaid covered 70 percent of the $939 million the state invested in the opioid epidemic last year. According to Brown’s office, experts said a $45 billion investment won’t work, and the Senate bill is less than five percent of what the House bill calls for.

He also said the bill would not only take away coverage for addiction treatment, but would do nothing to lower costs for Ohioans struggling to afford their premiums or prescription drug costs.

“Ohioans between the ages of 50 and 65 who do not have coverage through an employer would face even higher healthcare costs and be charged up to five times as much for coverage, and all Ohioans could lose access to essential health benefits currently mandated under the Affordable Care Act, such as mental health services and maternity coverage,” Brown’s office said in a news release. “The House bill the Senate used as the basis for its replacement bill would cause premiums to go up an average of about 20 percent next year.”

Ohio’s Republican U.S. Senator, Rob Portman, has raised concerns about the elimination of the Medicaid expansion, and many media commentators have cited him as a possible swing vote on passing or rejecting the Republican plan.

Portman said in a statement on Thursday that he stands by repealing and replacing the ACA.

“As I’ve said previously, the Affordable Care Act is not working for many Ohio families and small businesses,” he said. “My goal is to create a more workable system that lowers the cost of coverage, provides access to quality care, and protects the most vulnerable in our society.”
He took issue with the proposed cuts to Medicaid.

“There are some promising changes to reduce premiums in the individual insurance market, but I continue to have real concerns about the Medicaid policies in this bill, especially those that impact drug treatment at a time when Ohio is facing an opioid epidemic,” he said.

He said his vote would depend on the status of the final legislation.

“I look forward to examining this new proposal carefully and reviewing the analysis by the Congressional Budget Office when it is available,” he said. “If the final legislation is good for Ohio, I will support it.  If not, I will oppose it.  As this process moves forward, I will continue to work to protect Ohio’s interests and ensure that our health care system works better for all Ohioans.”