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Welcome to N.H., home of an opioid crisis



For the Monitor
Tuesday, May 09, 2017

This open letter was written ahead today’s visit by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Dear Secretary Price,

You have chosen an incredible time of year to travel to New Hampshire. Spring is in full bloom and the scenery in the Granite State cannot be matched. I hope you enjoy your visit. However, I also hope that you’ll take the time to listen to the concerns of Granite Staters, as I have, about the impact of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA has its challenges, and I’m the first to acknowledge that we need bipartisan solutions to improve access to care for all Americans. But, repealing the ACA without regard for the consequences is not the answer.

The ongoing debate about the future of health care in our country has left me deeply concerned that the Trump Administration does not appreciate the need to maintain a system that provides for the well-being of all Americans. The American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was jammed through the House along party lines last week, would jeopardize access to health care for thousands of Granite Staters and millions of Americans, including seven million veterans. It would allow those with pre-existing conditions to be priced out of care. It would allow women to be charged more based on their gender. It includes an “age tax” allowing Americans 50 years and up to be charged more, and it raids the Medicare Trust Fund. As I’ve traveled around New Hampshire’s rural communities, I’ve heard from hospital administrators concerned that they may need to close their doors if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, hurting those in already underserved areas.

As I’m sure you are aware, the Granite State, along with much of the country, is facing a heroin and opioid crisis. In 2015, New Hampshire experienced the second most overdose deaths per capita in the country. Just this week, a report showed the economic impact of substance misuse, both alcohol and drug, is in the billions of dollars for our state, adding a financial component to a crisis with an already devastating human toll. As we’ve worked to address this crisis, Medicaid expansion offered through the ACA has helped thousands of Granite Staters seeking recovery services get the treatment and care they need. Now on top of the serious threat that the AHCA poses to recovery and treatment services, it’s been reported that the administration is considering cutting the Office of National Drug Control Policy by 94 percent. As you can imagine, I have grave concerns about the seriousness of the administration’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic.

As you are in New Hampshire, and as a representative of this administration, I hope you’ll consider the following questions:

1. The House-passed bill makes it harder for those with preexisting conditions to get coverage. What is your plan to ensure quality and affordable coverage for the nearly 1 in 4 Granite Staters who have a preexisting condition?

2. Rural hospitals in New Hampshire have told me during roundtable meetings that the Republican health care bill could force their facilities in New Hampshire and around the country to close. Going forward, how do you propose to protect access to care in rural communities?

3. Are you and the administration aware of the scope of the opioid crisis in New Hampshire and the role of Medicaid expansion in improving access to treatment for Granite Staters?  Given the Republican bill’s provision ending Medicaid expansion, what is your policy to protect access to treatment for those suffering from substance use disorder?

4. The Republican health care bill allows insurers to charge premiums that are five times as much for older Americans. What is your plan to promote affordable coverage for Americans 50 and over? These are only a few of the many questions we in the Granite State have about the American Health Care Act. I hope you’ll take the time to address these concerns during your visit and consider the negative impact an ill-conceived and misguided piece of legislation would have on people in New Hampshire and Americans across the country.

Sincerely,

Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02)