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Sen. Duckworth Says Medicaid Cuts Would Hurt Drug Addiction Clinics

Ryan Delaney/St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said the Republican effort to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act could devastate drug treatment clinics by making deep cuts to Medicaid, the government-run insurance program for low-income Americans.

She made the comments after touring Chestnut Health Systems, an opioid addiction clinic in Granite City, near St. Louis. Duckworth told reporters that if Republicans succeed in cutting Medicaid, millions would be hurt, including those undergoing treatment for opioid addiction. She said Congress needs to protect Medicaid and make sure that medications used to treat addiction are affordable.

The Senator cited the rising cost of Naloxone, a popular opioid overdose reversal drug that has increased in price to $4,500 from about $700 per pack. That has made the treatment “out of touch and unaffordable for so many programs,” she said.

To address rising costs, she said, Congress should give Medicaid the ability to negotiate drug prices.

But the Republican health care bill in the Senate would dramatically reduce federal funding for Medicaid. The bill would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026, according to a recent estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.

Duckworth opposes the Republican health care overhaul, which she also criticized for providing tax breaks to pharmaceutical companies. Divided over how to proceed on the bill, Republicans are short of the votes needed to pass it.

That could give Democrats an opportunity to work with moderate Republicans on a more palatable alternative, Duckworth said.

“But we can’t even talk about the fixes that we want to work on and the things that we can do to fix it and maintain the health care for Americans because we’re stuck in this cycle of trying to repeal the [Affordable Care Act]," she said.

The Senate has three weeks until its August recess.

Ryan Delaney works on the Innovation Trail project - covering technology, economic development, startups and other issues relating to New York's innovation economy.