Report: Ending ACA may leave many Ohioans without mental health care

More than 220,000 people in Ohio may not be able to afford care for mental illness or substance disorder such as addiction to prescription drugs if congressional Republicans scrap the 2010 health law without passing a substitute measure, a new report said.

A study released Wednesday by Harvard Medical School and New York University predicts that not only would nearly 1 million people in Ohio lose health coverage through Medicaid or federally subsidized private insurance policies, but thousands would have to find other ways to pay for substance abuse treatment at a time when deaths in Ohio due to prescription drug abuse are rising.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 3,310 people died of drug overdoses in Ohio.

The 2010 health law, known as the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare, has funneled hundreds of millions of federal dollars to Ohio to expand health coverage for low-income people eligible for Medicaid – a joint federal and state program – or through private insurance plans subsidized by the federal government and available through federal marketplaces, known as exchanges.

President-elect Donald Trump has said he wants Congress to quickly repeal and replace President Obama’s signature program. Opponents of Obamacare believe it is flawed and too expensive to be sustained.

Just last year, Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman helped guide a bill through Congress that would provide $1.1 billion to states during the next two years to deal with substance abuse.

Emily Benavides, a Portman spokeswoman, said while the “skyrocketing costs of Obamacare are hurting families and small businesses all across the country,” she said Portman “is committed to ensuring there is a smooth transition for all Ohioans to a better health care system that also addresses key concerns about access to treatment for opioid addiction, mental health care, and other important issues.”

Liberal think tank sounds alarm

Cleveland-based Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal leaning think tank, also issued a 14-page report Wednesday.

“Repeal of health reform would place us all at risk. Nationwide, it threatens the coverage of some 30 million people by 2019. In Ohio, repeal would mean the federal funds flowing to Ohio’s state budget, to its health care providers and to the many families who are benefiting from expanded coverage would be slashed,” the report said.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who pushed for expanded Medicaid under Obamacare for Ohio, said he is worried about what happens to people who enrolled if Congress repeals the law without having a replacement program ready to go.

“We just can’t tell 700,000 ‘People you can’t get help,’” Kasich said Wednesday to a mental health and addiction service providers conference.

Policy Matters Ohio noted that it’s mostly white workers without college degrees who rely on the Affordable Care Act for coverage in Ohio.

The report found that in many counties, including Montgomery, more than 10 percent of the population has health care through expanded Medicaid. Another 230,000 Ohioans enrolled in marketplace coverage and receive subsidies to defray costs. The law helped reduce Ohio’s uninsured rate to 6.5 percent in 2015, down from 11 percent in 2013.

According to the report, expanded Medicaid has a substantial footprint in counties in southwest Ohio in terms of people enrolled and money spent:

Butler, 20,586 enrolled, $13.3 million spent

Champaign, 1,779 enrolled, $1.26 million spent

Clark, 10,197 enrolled, $6.7 million spent

Greene, 7,067 enrolled, $4.59 million spent

Miami, 4,119 enrolled, $2.83 million spent

Montgomery, 37,661 enrolled, $25.6 spent

Warren, 5,334 enrolled, $3.54 million spent


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