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Castor: GOP Health Bill Bad For Opioid Crisis

Stephanie Colombini
WUSF Public Media

Parts of the stalled Senate health care bill could hurt those addicted to opioids, according to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. The Tampa Democrat says if the bill passes, it will limit access to substance abuse treatment.

The bill would phase out Medicaid expansion under Obamacare and cap future spending, which could reduce the number of people covered by the program. Castor says many Floridians addicted to opioids depend on Medicaid for treatment.

Republicans in Congress have proposed dedicating an additional $45 billion over the next decade to combating the opioid crisis. But Rep. Castor says funding alone is not a substitute for health insurance.

"The key to treatment is a consistent plan,” Castor said. “You can't just have [a situation where] you go to the ER and maybe they're getting some additional dollars for a referral for a day or two of treatment – you have to have coverage."

Castor says Medicaid coverage for addiction treatment is especially critical in Florida because the state ranks worst in the country for mental health and substance abuse funding per capita.

The Congresswoman voiced her concerns after meeting with addiction specialists at DACCO Behavioral Health in Tampa. She was getting feedback about the opioid crisis before she returns to Washington after the July 4 recess to participate in a congressional oversight and investigations hearing on the topic in the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Committee.

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Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.