“Our state is pretty split right now.”
U.S. Senator Rob Portman used that statement to describe Ohio during a town hall tele-conference Wednesday evening.
Portman pointed out to the 8,000 people in the conference that Donald Trump won the state by just eight points over Hillary Clinton, but added that the issues Ohioans are facing right now would be the same no matter which candidate had been elected.
Portman, who joined the conference from Washington, listened as people from across the state called in and asked questions around some of those important issues in Ohio, with a big focus of the conversation leaning toward health care.
One of the important health care issues is the opioid/heroin addiction epidemic and how the Republican health care plan may affect treatment and services.
Cheryl Beverly from Chillicothe called into the conference. She runs Cheryl’s House of Hope, a women’s drug treatment program in southeast Ohio that helps women with opioid and heroin addiction issues. Beverly said a lot of these women depend on Medicaid.
“If the Medicaid goes away, what other option would I have for these ladies who are using Medicaid to get on the Vivitrol shot? What would be available for them?” said Beverly.
Vivitrol is a medication that the patient takes to block the effects of opioids and diminish cravings.
Portman said that under traditional Medicaid, Ohio would continue to get funding for Medicaid from the federal government and it would be per capita and would increase from year to year based on medical inflation.
What is proposed in the Republican health care plan is that states would not be required anymore to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment under Medicaid, said Portman.
What is also concerning, he said, is that the Medicaid expansion from the Affordable Care Act has been helping people in the state in getting treatment for addiction and substance abuse. Under the ACA provisions, those people with expanded Medicaid coverage will only have full coverage until 2020 when the expansion ends.
“We want to make sure they have access to treatment. That’s one of the things I am working on now,” said Portman. He said he believes it is important to replace the ACA but said he is not voting for the first version of the Republican health care plan being proposed. A vote on that plan was delayed Wednesday and it was pulled off the House floor Friday after it became clear Republicans didn’t have the necessary votes.
That plan would not provide states with traditional Medicaid funding for mental and substance abuse treatment but Portman said if that plan is passed, he has spoken with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and said there is no question that the governor would continue to cover those things.
Portman said legislation separate from the Republicans’ proposed health care plan could possibly provide states with funds for substance abuse treatment and for other people in Ohio who are identified as being part of a “risk pool” that require treatment for diseases.
“We’re hoping there will be a separate opportunity to provide states with funding for opioid and drug treatment,” said Portman.
Portman said a patients’ stabilization fund has been introduced in Congress and if that legislation succeeds in being passed, the money can help to fund substance abuse treatment in Ohio.
“We’ll see how it proceeds,” Portman said.
Reach Ashley at (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton