As the nation debates changes to the Affordable Care Act, it’s worth noting what’s been gained with the expansion of health care coverage to more than 20 million Americans. For the first time, many who suffer from addiction and substance abuse disorders are getting treatment thanks to their coverage. In the face of the growing opioid abuse epidemic in our country, that additional coverage means many more lives can be saved. One study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and New York University estimates that 2.8 million people with substance abuse disorders would lose some or all of their coverage if the ACA is repealed and not replaced. About 220,000 of these people are addicted to opioids. Widespread abuse of opioids, including prescription painkillers, fentanyl, and heroin has sent overdose deaths in America to record levels. We must recognize that expanded coverage has brought greater resources for behavioral health and addiction treatment to those most in need – and that reducing coverage could take that help away. Coverage matters. Policymakers must keep this in mind as they debate changes to our nation’s health care policy.

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