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Trump’s Opioid Commission A Sham

According to a just released government study (pdf) US hospitals handled 1.27 million emergency room visits or inpatient stays for opioid-related issues in a single year and that was 2014. Those numbers reflected a 64% increase in hospital stays and a 99% increase in ER visits compared to 2005 and are driving cause the mortality spike in the 25 to 44 year old age bracket. If the trend continues those numbers will keep rising, dramatically. According to the Washington Post, Maryland and Massachusetts lead in the most overdose cases:

A state report released this month showed that opioid-related deaths in Maryland had nearly quadrupled since 2010, and deaths from fentanyl had increased 38-fold in the past decade. Baltimore City saw 694 deaths from drug and alcohol-related overdoses in 2016 — nearly two a day, and a stunning spike from 2015, when 393 people died from overdoses.

“We see overdoses in all ethnic groups, in all Zip codes,” said Leana Wen, the city’s health commissioner.

Wen signed an order June 1 making naloxone, the overdose-reversal medication, available over the counter at pharmacies, and she urged residents to obtain it. The city has its own stockpile of roughly 4,000 doses, but that has to last until next July. In the meantime, Wen said she is rationing the doses, distributing them to people most likely to need it. In two years, she said, residents have used naloxone to save the lives of more than 950 people. [..]

Trailing Maryland for opioid-related hospitalizations is Massachusetts, followed by the District of Columbia. The AHRQ’s data-driven report does not reveal how many patients have been treated multiple times in a given calendar year. It also does not speculate on why some states have such high rates of hospital admissions. It suggests that people in the most urban places are more likely to be treated in a hospital than those in rural areas — which would indicate that lack of access to medical care is a factor in the uptick in death rates seen in less-urban parts of the country in recent years. [..]

The sharpest increase in hospitalization and emergency room treatment for opioids was among people ages 25 to 44, echoing The Washington Post’s recent reporting that found overall death rates (from any cause) in that age bracket have gone up nationally since 2010 — a phenomenon seen in every racial and ethnic group other than Asian Americans.

Drug overdoses are a major driver of this mortality spike, and opioids, which range from prescription painkillers to heroin and fentanyl, cause the majority of fatal overdoses. In 2015, opioid overdoses killed 33,039 Americans, according to data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last December.

But have no fear, Donald Trump has empaneled a commission headed by New Jersey’s least popular governor, Chris Christie, or maybe not.

Chris Christie silently steers Trump’s new opioid commission into a ditch
By The NJ Star-Ledger Editorial Board via Raw Story

The new commission charged with finding solutions for the opioid crisis — formed by President Trump, and chaired by Gov. Christie — was a few minutes into its first hearing Friday, when one member reminded the panel what time it is.

It is high noon: “We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think that what is happening over in Congress regarding issues of health care matters to this issue,” said Gov. Roy Cooper (D-N.C.), referring to the Medicaid debate. “If we make it harder for people to get health care coverage, it’s going to make this crisis worse.”

Another panelist, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, called Medicaid the “elephant in the room. It’s the largest provider of coverage for people with mental illness and addiction in this country. So we have to mention that any repeal of Medicaid is a repeal of coverage that we currently have out there.”

Dr. Joe Parks, the medical director for the National Council for Behavioral Health, also pointed out that “since the majority of increased opiate deaths and suicide occur in young and middle-aged adults – which is the expansion population – the Medicaid expansions must be maintained and completed.”

And here is what we heard on this subject from the commission’s Chairman:

(Crickets.)

Which immediately makes you ponder the credibility of this commission.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50, and Medicaid is the leading payer for addiction and mental health treatment. Eliminate Medicaid – now under siege from a Republican-dominated Congress and the President himself – and you surrender to an epidemic that killed 65,000 Americans last year, a 19-percent spike from 2015.

You’d think that’s a crucial issue for this commission, would you not?

But this isn’t the first time Christie has been conspicuous by his silence.

He didn’t say much after Trump’s budget called for a $616 billion cut in Medicaid over the next decade, on top of the $834 billion that would be cut under the American Health Care Act that passed the House last month.

And as experts warn that such cuts would destroy treatment efforts, lawmakers offer canards: Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3rd Dist.), who revived the AHCA zombie in the House (the one with a robust 8-percent approval rating), says he solved the Medicaid issue by earmarking $15 billion from the Patient and State Stability Fund for drug treatment. That’s nonsense.

One of the aforementioned experts, CEO Marcia Lee Taylor of the Partnership for Drug Free Kids, a 10-year veteran of Capitol Hill, says MacArthur’s funding gimmick “will run out of money very fast, states will be left to scramble, and people with addictions will go without help – period.”

Most governors already know this. We know one from a state in which only 10 percent of addicts have private insurance, but he seems to have misplaced his tongue.

The video of the commission’s first meeting is a telling watch.

It’s fairly obvious from the news coming from Capitol Hill that the Republican led congress couldn’t care less about the opioid epidemic or any other aspect of health care. Unlike the Affordable Care Act, the Republican bill not be no discussed or amended and the bill will be fast tracked. Their focus is passing a multi-billion dollar cut to Medicaid and decimate healthcare for the majority of Americans in order to give the Trump family and their multimillionaire and billionaire cronies a tax cut by the end of this year. Trump’s commission is a sham to distract attention from his real agenda. If any of this garbage passes they should all lose their jobs in 2018 and leave Trump to twiddle his thumbs twittering at his resorts.