The opioid crisis in Virginia continues to grow. In just one week in December 6 people in Fairfax died from drug overdoses. That’s just one week, in one county. Fatal drug overdoses increased in Virginia by 38% between 2015 and 2016. Even worse is the increase in overdose deaths due to fentanyl and other painkillers, a 175% increase. For the last 4 years in Virginia drug overdose deaths have outpaced deaths due to car accidents and gun related deaths. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths jumped from 225 deaths in 2015 to 622 deaths in 2016. Will Medicaid expansion help or hurt this problem?
From the National Review online:
In 2015, the seven states with the highest drug-overdose death rates were West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. These states all have something else in common: All were among the 31 states (not including D.C.) that expanded Medicaid through Obamacare.
Ohio, which has enrolled more than 700,000 adults in its Obamacare Medicaid expansion, is seeing worse problems with opioids than ever before. This year alone, the state is on pace for more overdose deaths than the entire United States had in 1990, according to an Ohio county coroner.
It seems the overprescribing of prescription painkillers are fueling this epidemic and those on Medicaid are twice as likely as those with private insurance to be prescribed opioids.
The CDC’s own study of Washington State showed that a person on Medicaid was 5.7 times more likely to die an opioid-related death than someone not on Medicaid.
While our Virginia legislators believe Medicaid expansion will help curb opioid deaths, it may well result in the opposite, increasing opioid deaths in Virginia.
If lawmakers want to address the opioid epidemic in their states, they should focus on substance-abuse treatment for those who truly need it and are willing to accept it, rather than on maintaining the costly expansion of Medicaid to millions of able-bodied adults.