Beshear touts Ky. as example to follow in drug fight, Obamacare

As the U.S. health secretary reminded the national governors’ conference that the administration is trying to put another $100 million into fighting drug addiction, Gov. Steve Beshear cited Kentucky as an example for other states to follow on drugs and health reform.

After mentioning the 2012 legislation aimed at abuse of prescription painkillers, Beshear said, “This addiction situation is akin to the game of whack-a-mole. . . . You attack one and another pops up someplace else. . . . Now heroin has raised its ugly head and is killing even more people than prescription drug abuse is.”

Beshear cited the anti-heroin legislation passed this year, with expanded drug treatment and locally authorized needle exchanges, he said, “I think we’ve all figured out that we cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this problem.”

Beshear told the governors, meeting in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., that he expects to “hear positive news” this month about efforts against prescription drug abuse in Kentucky.

The Obama administration has asked Congress for an extra $100 million to fight drug addiction. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told the governors that about a third of the funds would go toward “addiction-fighting medications, which have been the
cornerstone of the government’s approach to fighting opioid use,” Sarah Ferris reports for The Hill. The money would “go to community health centers in 11 states that are on the frontlines of the fight against opioid addictions.”

Burwell also advocated expanding eligibility for the federal-state Medicaid program under Obamacare, which 30 states including Kentucky have done but 20 led by Republican governors or legislatures have not.
Beshear said Kentucky’s expansion has cut uncompensated care in Kentucky’s rural hospitals to 5 percent, from 25 percent, and said many are in the black “for first the time in a long time.” Many rural hospitals have said other features of the health-reform law have hurt them, but Beshear said, “From a revenue standpoint
having expanded Medicaid has been a boon to our providers.
He also said it has been good for the economy, citing the study by Deloitte Consulting that says the expansion has “already created 12,000 jobs
in health care” and will infuse $40 billion into the state’s economy through 2021. The job figure appears to be total jobs, not in health care, which accounts for 40 to 45 percent of the total jobs generated, under the model used by Deloitte.
If the next governor continues the expansion, the state will have to start paying a small part of it in 2017. Beshear did not make the usual argument, supported by the study, that the expansion will pay for itself through 2020 by bringing formerly uninsured people into the health-care system and generating jobs and tax revenue.
He did address other arguments, that the federal government “will back away” from the expansion or that the cost will be too great. “You can stop,” he said. “I
know a lot of legislatures have a problem just because of the name of the act,
but if you can get past that kind of politics … It’s gonna cut down on the
big costs down the road,” through cancer screenings and so on.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has failed to persuade his Republican-controlled legislature to expand Medicaid, asked his fellow Democrat, “Steve, you want to come up to Virginia for a
couple of days? I could use that.”

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