Government’s role in opioid crisis deserves review

Government’s role in opioid crisis deserves review

AS states grapple with increasing opioid abuse, policymakers would do well to consider if government has inadvertently played a role in fueling addiction. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has gathered evidence suggesting this may be the case.

In a recent letter to the Health and Human Services inspector general, Johnson noted that opioid problems appeared much worse from 2013 to 2015 in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act than those that didn’t, based on Census data and statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Maine, which didn’t expand Medicaid, there was a 55 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths. In nearby New Hampshire, which did expand Medicaid, there was a 108 percent increase. In Maryland, an expansion state, the rate surged 44 percent, but just 22 percent in non-expansion Virginia. In Medicaid-expanded Ohio, overdoses increased 41 percent, compared to 3 percent in Wisconsin, which didn’t expand its program.

Overall, overdose deaths per million residents increased twice as fast in Medicaid expansion states than in non-expansion states.

Correlation doesn’t automatically equal causation, but Johnson provides reason to think it exists in this case. Based on police comments, he reports someone with a Medicaid card can obtain up to 240 oxycodone pills for as little as a $1 co-pay. Those pills can then be resold for $4,000 on the black market.

It’s not unreasonable to think some people will exploit the system for fast cash, especially since others (taxpayers) foot almost all up-front costs.

Oklahoma is not among the Medicaid expansion states, and opioid abuse, while a major problem, isn’t as common here as in many other states — at least for now. But there have been Oklahoma cases that lend credence to Johnson’s theory.

In 2015, state authorities raided a south Oklahoma City pain clinic, Aria Orthopedics. Physician Harvey Jenkins and five former employees were eventually charged with Medicaid fraud and various drug offenses. Prosecutors called the Harvard-educated Jenkins “a drug dealer with a prescription pad.”

Jenkins had served hundreds of Medicaid patients. Prosecutors said he was known for writing large prescriptions and doing little to prevent diversion of narcotics, mainly opioid painkillers. A former clinic employee told investigators the clinic served “between 60 and 115 patients” every day.

Proponents of Medicaid expansion were quick to shrug off Johnson’s findings, and many countered that Medicaid expansion also pays for some people to obtain addiction treatment. The latter is true, but that doesn’t negate potential abuse of the system.

We’ve long supported efforts to require doctors to check the state’s prescription drug database every time they prescribe highly addictive drugs. Current law requires Oklahoma doctors to check it only on a patient’s first visit and then every 180 days thereafter. Imposing an every-time requirement would certainly be appropriate any time a doctor serves a Medicaid patient who is using taxpayer funds. There are likely other safeguards worth implementing.

Johnson’s observations justify careful review and reconsideration of state law. Policymakers in Oklahoma and elsewhere should take this critique seriously. State officials must ensure the expenditure of Medicaid dollars generates improved health outcomes, not an addiction crisis.

8 Responses

  1. I just want to know how many of those are actually cpp and od’d by taking their medications as directed and how many of those that od’d did so on drugs like fentynal and heroin purchased on the street illegally? This opioids war is very biased by including those statistics of illegally purchased opioids. It cannot be fair it never was fair it’ll never be fair as long as the sole intended target is the cpp. Those alive will continue buying drugs illegally, while we sit by planning our deaths due to being forced to live in nonstop pain because prescriber won’t prescribe life saving/ giving drugs that provide some quality of life.

  2. To Vic,,,,well at the rate that Dr.Government is doing/going,,,it has already killed 30,000 in 15 years sooo another 15,,,the Dr.Government will WILLFULLY kill about 60,000 chronically medically ill human beings!!!
    Now Ron Johnson,,is the senatore my aclu told me to talk w/since Baldwin,,the democrat told me to ,”prove it,” when I asked her to put a box on all death certificates,,,”death due to forced endurement of physical pain,””’ to give the coroners an option,,instead of wrongfully documenting our deaths as suicides,,,,Wisconsin is right up there w/Christie,,,,,,Wisconsins aclu walks side by side w/Baldwin,,for she is gay,,I was told if I was Gay,,thee aclu would of taken on our case!!!
    We have got to figure out a way to get ourselves face yo face w/these politicians..
    We have got to figure a way to get us united under 1 group,,not 300 different groups on Facebook etc
    Finally,,somehow we have got to literally sue the federal government for torture and genocide and prove it in a court of law,,,,for that is the truth they are willfully censoring…Once we got that in a court of law,,,ALL THE FRAUD,,THEE LIEFUL DOCUMENTATION,,,ALL OF IT,,,WOULD BE EXPOSED,,,THAT WAS CORRUPTLY DONE ON OUR DIME
    TAKE THAT FREAKEN SURVEY OF 50,000,claiming opiates don’t work,,and we are all lieing,,,theiven,,,,unemployed bumbs,,,,,The government was sooo willfuly ignorant of what/who we are,,,they never even thought to ask 1 simple question,,,Is your unemployment due to your medical illness???dahhhhhhhhhhhh,,but it did expose to the world,,,how out of touch w/the realities of thee medically ill our government is!!!
    Ron Johnson,,,statement about the government by paying for health care insurance fueled this FALSE epidemic ,,,is right up there w/.we are all unemployed thieves,,,,shear ignorance/arrogance,,,,on our dime!!,,,maryw

  3. The news absolutely needs to be reporting the chronic pain epidemic yet I see nothing on this, All the Democrsts want to do is TAX our medicine and BAN Kratom. You all know Diane Feinstein started that Sista bill which is basically a ban on Kratom. All of this “going to the doctor monthly” started under Obama, it appears that Republicsns are no better, I think it is going to take a good 15 years before our story will get out. How many will no longer be here in 15 years?

    • Oh I’ve tried with CNN and KREM2 news. Krem seemed interested in our side of the epidemic and asked that i email them and haven’t heard back. Thank God for kratom it is legal here and I have been taking it since last March. I had 2 spine surgeries 3 weeks apart in February and the morphine I was taking around the clock stopped working so I stopped taking it because pain pills are given for only 6 wks post op. So rather than get cut off and going cold turkey abruptly I quit them altogether and discovered that I was physically dependant. I had received a generous sample of the 3 strains, red for pain, white for energy, and green for mood. I had learned that kratom was good for withdrawals and for pain but really didn’t believe it with all the hoopla it just seemed like the next new way to get rich quick type of scheme. Well turns out I was off morphine and thru withdrawals in 1 week and even my pain greatly reduced. I am a huge advocate for kratom and The only reason why they’re trying to make it illegal is because they can’t find a way to make money off of it .In fact they’re so desperate that they’re Trying to say that kratom produces euphoria and is mildly addicting and that it mimics the affects like morphine. First off, there is no such thing as mildly addicting. You’re either an addict or you’re not. The euphoria isn’t because of the plants effect, but the sheer joy of having pain relieved. So they are saying that because it mimics the effects of opiods it should be made illegal, even if that means changing the laws. If kratom was causing any type of high, why am I still only taking 2 tsp twice a day since I started taking it last March? If it was addicting how come i still have money in my pocket, my bills paid? This world’s gone crazy. It’s like we woke up one day to what was wrong is now right and what was right is now wrong.

  4. I look at the reports on how the “opioid epidemic”, has got to be stopped and addressed. I am, along with millions of other Americans, are on the other end of opioids.
    I am on the end of the chronic pain disease epidemic. As the CDC, DEA and Medicaid and medicare, and numerous other government associates, are blaming Doctors for the over prescribing of medication, NOBODY, is looking at or reading the statistics from chronic pain disease patients. How about not addressing these drugs as dangerous and addictive. Let’s look at them as lifesaving and medically necessary for the million of Americans in chronic pain. Chronic pain is a disease. It is now becoming an epidemic.
    No other disease medication is scrutinized. Chronic pain is a disease. We as patients are being denied, dismissed and overlooked by our drs due to all the scrutiny associated with treating chronic pain disease. Our doctors are afraid to treat us adequately. We have a disease that medication is readily accessible to us and we are being denied. We pain patients are truly being discriminated against, due to people who use heroin, illegal fentanyl, and placed a blame on anyone but themselves. This is a witch hunt for drs who prescribe life saving medication and pain disease patients who benefit from this medication.
    We have a chronic disease. We want to be able to take care of our homes, our children, our selves, as much as possible, but without access to our, potentially, life saving medications, we are unable to do so. We want to live not just exist in pain 24/7.
    We need the government agencies to look at the real statistics, not the hand picked.
    We need help. With all the headlines, topics and stories on how opioids are bad, let’s look at what good they do for our disease of chronic pain and the million of Americans they help.

    • That’s what I’ve been screaming about! This crisis has been created by those bodies serving the federal government. They are pumping the numbers to serve their own agenda. Those who use illegal drugs like heroin shouldn’t even be included in the statistics and information that only targets those of us in chronic pain. Those addicts using druga illegally will STILL be using them when we’ve all offed ourselves because our pain was left untreated for so long. You may call me crazy, and I am, but I am still very smart and it if it takes my last dying breath I will be holding accountable those responsible for making us suffer.

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