A number of sites that cover health care are featuring a just-released study of Obamacare’s effects on the West Virginia’s opioid crisis. For example, Vox reported earlier today:
Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is helping fight West Virginia’s opioid epidemic
A growing body of research suggests that a major part of Obamacare, the Medicaid expansion, is playing a significant role in fighting the deadly and growing opioid epidemic.
The latest study, published in Health Affairs by Brendan Saloner, Rachel Landis, Bradley Stein, and Colleen Barry, found that after West Virginia expanded Medicaid, the number of people diagnosed for opioid use disorder under the public insurance program rose — and, crucially, the number of people on buprenorphine, one of two gold-standard medications for opioid addiction, went up as well.
This is particularly pertinent for West Virginia. It’s the state with the highest drug overdose death rate in the country, at 57.8 per 100,000 people in 2017. The next highest state was Ohio, with a drug overdose death rate of 46.3.
The Health Affairs study suggests that the Medicaid expansion, which began in 2014, helped get more people into treatment. The number of people under the Medicaid expansion diagnosed with opioid use disorder more than doubled between January 2014 and December 2016, and the number of people on buprenorphine treatment increased sixfold.
The study is titled:
The Affordable Care Act In The Heart Of The Opioid Crisis: Evidence From West Virginia
Here is a link to the study’s abstract.
I don’t expect that we will hear much about this from our local congressman, David McKinley, nor will we see any coverage of this from our local newspaper chain, Ogden. Both have consistently called for the repeal of Obamacare since it was first passed and neither has had much to say about how it has positively affected the health of West Virginians.
Earlier today, the House voted “to condemn the Trump administration's support for a lawsuit that aims to toss out the Affordable Care Act.” (WV’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, was part of the original suit.) Where was Mr. Bipartisan, David McKinley? Our congressman joined all but one Republican to vote against the motion. I know the vote was for all purposes, meaningless, but at least it got Republicans like McKinley on record for supporting the Trump administration's efforts to eliminate Obamacare.
Hey, maybe I’ll ask the congressman about his vote at his next town hall. (Note --at this point I usually feature a map from the Town Hall Project that shows West Virginia’s three congressional districts with no planned town halls. I just checked and Representative Carol Miller from WV’s 3rd District will be holding town halls tomorrow in Rainelle and White Sulphur Springs – a hats-off to Rep. Miller. Of course, there was nothing for McKinley.)