One week after President Trump interrupted his vacation to announce a “national emergency” over the U.S. opioid crisis, advocates have been quick to point out that the current administration’s pledge to dramatically cut Medicaid would likely be detrimental to any efforts to end the addiction epidemic. An op-ed in Newsweek by Doug Wirth, the president and CEO of New York–based Amida Care, a special needs health plan, outlines their arguments. 

To begin, according to recent reports from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program currently cover 3 in 10 people struggling with opioid addiction across the country. Medicaid also currently pays for nearly one quarter of all substance use treatment nationwide. 

Advocates also argue that Medicaid makes a wide range of public services available to these individuals that can help them get their lives back on track, including comprehensive health care, programs that address housing instability and employment and mental health services. 

Wirth cites another report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality that found that in 2014, 1.27 million Americans were admitted to a hospital or went to an emergency room for opioid-related conditions. Unsurprisingly, for many of them, Medicaid was one of their primary sources of insurance. 

Medicaid is also considered to be critical in combating and treating illnesses like hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV, which are often spread through intravenous drug use. For example, after an opioid-related HIV outbreak in Indiana in 2014, Vice President Pence (who was then the state’s governor) ultimately turned to Medicaid expansion to help end the crisis.

The report concludes by arguing that it would be “irresponsible for Republican leaders to make a promise to combat the opioid crisis and then consider proposals that would cut Medicaid.” Doing so, says Wirth, would effectively leave thousands of people struggling with addiction without the means to seek recovery. 

To read the op-ed, click here