Trump administration says it’s ‘concerned’ about opioid crisis that ‘exploded’ under Obamacare

  • President Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers released a report Wednesday on the administration’s healthcare policies.
  • In the report, the CEA noted that the increase in opioid-related deaths exploded around the same time as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
  • Republicans have suggested that Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid may have contributed to the opioid crisis, though research disputes the assertion.

President Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers released a report Wednesday detailing the administration’s work to roll back the Affordable Care Act, and at one point in the report noted that the law’s passage came around the same time as the opioid crisis worsened.

The post criticised the law known as Obamacare for its focus on bringing down the number of uninsured Americans, which the CEA said did not necessarily translate to a healthier population.

“Determinants of health other than insurance and medical care – such as drug abuse, diet and physical activity leading to obesity, and smoking – have a tremendous impact and have exacerbated recent declines in life expectancy, despite the ACA’s increased coverage,” the post said.

As part of the post, the CEA authors also discussed the growing number of overdose deaths from opioids.

“This Administration is focused on reversing the harm caused by the ACA by fostering competition, choice, and innovation while also addressing the many factors beyond insurance that influence health,” the post reads. “The Administration is particularly concerned about the opioid crisis that exploded during the ACA expansion.”

While the CEA did not directly tie the ACA to the growing opioid crisis, other Republicans have recently been more explicit about a possible link between the law’s implementation and the opioid crisis.

Sen. Ron Johnson, chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released a report in January linking Medicaid generally and the law’s expansion of Medicaid specifically to the increase in overdose deaths.

“This report is not meant to suggest that Medicaid, or any other federal program, is the only factor contributing to the opioid epidemic,” Johnson’s report said. “But if Medicaid is helping to drive the epidemic, it stands to reason that expanding the program – particularly to people most susceptible to abuse – could worsen the problem. The epidemic has indeed spiraled into a national crisis since the Obamacare Medicaid expansion took effect in 2014.”

DJ Norquist, chief of staff for the CEA, told Business Insider that Johnson’s report resembles their offices thinking on the issue.

“We agree with Senator Johnson that government policies are an overlooked part of the problem,” Norquist said in an email.

In a 2017 study in Health Affairs, health policy researchers Andrew Goodman-Bacon and Emma Sandoe found that the evidence linking the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and the opioid crisis was tenuous at best.

“While we do not reject the possibility that public policy has played a role in our current prescription abuse crisis, on balance we find little evidence to support the idea that Medicaid caused or worsened the epidemic,” the study said.