EDITORIAL: Another fake problem, another phony solution

York Dispatch
  • The opioid abuse/Obamacare theory stems from a private study for a noted ACA opponent.
  • If the strategy of undermining a productive policy with unsupported claims seems familiar, it is.

Here we go again.

Republicans in Congress, abetted by the always-suspect conservative media, are once more fabricating a nonexistent problem to justify an unnecessary solution.

This time around, the nonexistent — or, at the very least, unproven — contention is that Medicaid expansions made possible through the Affordable Care Act are contributing to the near-epidemic opioid crisis.

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo, shows a portion of the label for OxyContin pills in Montpelier, Vt. On Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, safety advocates and state health officials filed a petition calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban high-dose opioid painkillers to prevent accidental overdose deaths among patients and people who abuse drugs. The petition singles out the OxyContin 80 milligram tablet, which is taken twice daily, adding up to 240 morphine-equivalent milligrams. It seeks a ban on other high-dose opioid tablets and under-the-tongue films. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

If that were the case, it would be a very short leap to calling for repeal of the health care act, known as "Obamacare," or a rollback of the Medicaid expansions.

But there is no evidence to support the charge, therefore the leap is simply one of logic.

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More:FDA urged to review safety of opioids

Consider the source. The opioid abuse/"Obamacare" theory stems from a private study produced by the Health and Human Services Department for noted Affordable Care Act opponent Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin.

Johnson, magnified by the right-wing echo chamber, is circulating the suggestion that low-income adults might be using Medicaid cards to obtain large quantities of painkillers, which they then sell. He’s seeking an investigation and additional research.

Additional research is the least that’s needed before any action is taken based on this secretive and, therefore, suspect research. Independent health-care experts question the report’s methodology, with some saying that, if anything, the Medicaid expansion is mitigating the opioid crisis by making treatment more widely available.

Indeed, when congressional Republicans appeared ready to overturn the Affordable Care Act in July, York County health officials such as Dr. Matthew Howie warned of the negative impacts reductions to Medicaid would have locally. Howie, executive director of the York Regional Opiate Collaborative, estimated Medicaid pays for about half of all substance-abuse treatments in York County.

That need hasn’t gone away.

The Health Department wouldn’t comment on Johnson’s allegations for a story by The Associated Press, but issued a statement acknowledging, “correlation does not necessarily prove causation, and additional research is required before any conclusions can be made.”

Ya think?

If the strategy of undermining a productive policy with unsupported arguments seems familiar, well, that’s the type of deja-voodoo the GOP repeatedly conjures up.

Consider President Donald Trump’s elections commission on ethics, which is attempting to use the nearly nonexistent occurrence of voter fraud to justify new voting restrictions.

Or look at Department of Justice efforts to argue that affirmative-action policies at some colleges discriminate against white applicants as a way to erode those still-needed equalizers for minority students.

This movie is getting old.

Congressional Republicans’ failure to quash the Affordable Care Act this summer after years of calls to “repeal and replace” was a welcome surprise. To all but the hyper-partisan, however, it also should have been instructive. It wasn’t the lack of desire to repeal the existing law that gave several Republican senators pause enough to break with their party, it was the prospect of replacing it — with nothing.

Unless and until a viable alternative policy can be put into law, elected officials must ensure the Affordable Care Act’s protections are not undermined. That includes any attempts to roll back Medicaid expansions.

Pennsylvania is among the more than 30 states whose residents have benefited from the expansion. Even Republican-led states such as Arizona, Michigan and Ohio have taken advantage of the program, assisting hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans.

These governors — Democrats and Republicans alike — must lead the charge against fledgling efforts to use suspect studies that would erode important health benefits for their states’ neediest.