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Recovering WV Addicts Fear for Future If Healthcare Bill Passes

Some recovering opioid users in West Virginia say the treatment they get through Medicaid is all that's keeping them from an addiction that could kill them. (3/Wikipedia)
Some recovering opioid users in West Virginia say the treatment they get through Medicaid is all that's keeping them from an addiction that could kill them. (3/Wikipedia)
June 26, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One of the big issues in the current healthcare debate is what will happen to Medicaid support for substance abuse treatment. Some in West Virginia say they're afraid losing it could kill them.

Bailey Hendricks is a single mother from St. Albans, and a recovering opioid addict. She credits substance abuse treatment with saving her life. She said if Medicaid no longer covered the treatment, it would likely be a death sentence for many.

"Nobody knows what's going to happen to all of us,” Hendricks said. "We're all going to be turned out into the street. Most of us are probably going to die. I don't even understand why it's even a thought that they would take it way from us."

Substance abuse treatment was added to the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. That expansion would be rolled back over time in the GOP bill to repeal the ACA now being debated in the Senate.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito has said she intends to defend funding for substance abuse treatment, but has not said how she plans to vote on the legislation.

In the House bill, known as the American Health Care Act, Medicaid funding would be slashed by 25 percent over ten years. The Senate bill would take longer, but it uses a formula most expect would actually result in deeper cuts.

Unless a specific provision for substance abuse treatment is added, it's likely those cuts would force states to end Medicaid support for Suboxone clinics like the one Bailey goes to.

"The Suboxone program saved my life. And if they take this part of the healthcare out and I lose my treatment, there is a big uncertainty in my future,” she said.

Bailey said most people have no idea how hard it is to break an addiction. She said the difference between how she was before treatment and now is like night and day.

"Sitting in jail and having my 3-month-old at home was devastating for me,” Bailey said. "And it has completely changed my life. I have my own vehicle, my own house. I have a lot of responsibility at work."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants to pass the repeal-and-replace legislation by the end of the month. Capito's is one of the key votes he would need to do that.

More information is available here.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV