Southeast Ohioans Still Fearful of Obamacare Replacement Plan

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ATHENS, Ohio – Local healthcare advocates and area residents said they continue to be concerned that the Affordable Care Act/Medicaid will be replaced by President Trump’s American Health Care Act, even after the president’s bill was pulled Friday before a vote could be taken.

The cause of concern is that the American Health Care Act will eliminate mental health and addiction services currently covered under Medicaid for states that expanded it. By replacing Medicaid with AHCA, more than 150,000 low-income Ohioans would be left without the services to battle their addictions.

Addiction in Ohio

Athens, Ohio
Athens, Ohio

“We can either have productive members of society and recognize that addiction is a disease, that mental health treatment is necessary and appropriate to ensure a successful society or we can defund Medicaid to give tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent,” said Athens County Prosecuting Attorney Keller Blackburn on Thursday, before the measure was withdrawn from consideration.

The Ohio Department of Heath reports that current drug abuse and addiction is 20.5 percent higher than in 2014, and that Ohio leads the nation in heroin and opioid deaths, with about one in 14 deaths in the U.S. occurring in Ohio.

“Any effort to reduce the expansion of Medicaid will simply cause the further expansion of the opioid crisis,” said Blackburn. “Addiction does not begin with opioids, and does not end with opioids, this is just our current crisis. We want to fix the problem and overcome the issues that we have.”

“He got too far in and couldn’t get himself out”

Kelly Kimble, an Ohio University sophomore who lost a friend to drugs, said those addictions happen quickly.

“It mostly started because he was hanging out with some of the wrong people and he got too far in and couldn’t get himself out of it,” she said. “Treatment is necessary.”

OhioHealth Castrop Health Center Athens, Ohio
OhioHealth Castrop Health Center
Athens, Ohio

Opposing Views

But not everyone is sympathetic to the plight of those addicted to drugs.

“Looking at the whole spectrum, 90 percent of people chose to take those drugs at some point in their lives.” said one Athens resident. “You don’t choose to get sick with cancer, but you make the choice to take a drug.”

But President Trump’s bill would do more than cut addiction treatment.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the first version of the replacement to Obamacare would have put 24-million people at risk of losing their health insurance.