$25 billion. That is the conservative estimated cost of our country’s opioid addiction as reported by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Forty-four people die every day in this country from an overdose of prescription painkillers and heroin, drugs that are highly addictive and easy to obtain. This epidemic has reached a level that surpasses the height of our AIDS epidemic decades ago. So why aren’t our representatives in Congress talking about this? Instead, they are focused on cutting addiction services and access to healthcare for all Americans, including our family members struggling with this deadly addiction.
A Health Crisis Epidemic
In a single year, the death rate from opioid addiction in Illinois jumped by a staggering 22%. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that opioid drug overdoses killed 45% more people than all homicides, 25% more people than auto accidents, and killed more people than those who died in all gun-related causes (including homicide, suicide, and accidental shootings). This is clearly an epidemic taking hold in every part of our state, affecting all of us.
We spend close to $887 million dollars a year trying to cope with this epidemic and the problem is getting worse. Data from 2014 alone shows there were nearly 8,000 emergency room visits to treat overdoses and over 34,000 inpatient hospitalizations for addiction treatment. Our state was one of just 14 others that had such a significant increase in drug overdose deaths and no one in Washington is talking about that.
Rather than addressing the problem, Republicans lawmakers are helping make matters worse for our families. They promised for years to replace the ACA “Obamacare” law with something better. They failed miserably in that promise and will make the cost of care significantly more expensive for our state and put life-saving treatment options out of reach for our families.
Catering to Corporate Donors
The first proposal by the House Republicans showed us who they cater to as they hope to abandon 24 million Americans in their “Trumpcare” plan. The only winners in their scheme are their corporate benefactors – insurance and big pharmaceutical companies, some of the same companies pushing addictive products into our communities. Last year, The Urban Institute studied how some of these companies are making the problem worse and found a direct result from their, “…misleading information on prescription pain killer addiction; and aggressive pharmaceutical selling tactics, such as product giveaways, downplaying side effects, and broad advertising.” Why are Republican lawmakers rewarding them? Follow the money.
The groups hit hardest by their plan are our elderly, disabled and our veterans, people who have a higher risk of addiction from pain treatment therapies. Next in line are the teens who gain access to these drugs through their family medicine cabinet. The $880 billion dollar cut to Medicaid hurts Illinois by removing that safety net for people and our ability to budget for health costs at a state level. Medicaid costs are negotiated at a lower rate. Remove that coverage and we go back to more unregulated emergency room visits that cost us more. This also puts the cost of care and addiction treatment out of reach for those who need it most. What working family can afford the cost of a $14,000 – $34,000 residential treatment program for their loved one? Without negotiated costs controls negotiated by state and federal programs, that is exactly what our families will face. This is why so many policy analysist and our own Conservative working families have been outraged by this “Trumpcare” proposal.
Lawmakers in Washington have become deaf to our concerns and deaf to our outcry over this growing epidemic. When our own police chiefs and sheriffs were surveyed in 2016 and said that heroin was the greatest drug threat in the state and our families in every area are suffering, why wouldn’t Republicans take notice? I believe that is because they cannot hear us over all the ‘free speech’ money pouring in from their corporate donors.