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Opioid Epidemic Affecting Healthcare in Congress

July 7, 2017 (EIRNS)—Increasing signs that the raging U.S. opioid epidemic may be knocking out the Senate Republican "repeal Obamacare" bill, led to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell appearing to prepare to abandon the bill. In a speech in Kentucky during this week’s Congressional recess, McConnell said that if the bill could not be passed he would have to "work with the Democrats" to revise Obamacare. He did not elaborate. Republican leaders have noticed that more than half the House Democrats are sponsoring a single-payer health insurance, or "Medicare for All" bill.

An increasing number of Senate Republicans do not want the Obamacare taxes repealed because of the urgent need to create a large Federal fund to fight the epidemic. At the same time, a number of the most conservative GOP Senators will not support this, perhaps forming the mechanism to kill the "repeal" bill.

A new study by the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in July 7 Washington Post finds that opioid prescriptions fell by 13% from 2012 to 2015, but that the level is so high—equivalent to opioid prescriptions for 75% of all Americans every year—that the drop may be meaningless. The annual prescription rate is still "enough to keep every American medicated around the clock for three weeks." Some 33,000 died of overdoses in 2015 and "state data and a nationwide survey by the New York Times indicate that those figures may be rising [sic] sharply in 2016, the Post reports."

Prescription opioids killed 180,000 Americans from 2000-2015, and led to the majority of opium addictions which killed another 200,000. Nearly 1% of Americans are addicted to opiates. The estimated national cost "burden" of the epidemic is $78.5 billion annually—more than the total size of the multi-year fund to fight the epidemic being proposed by some Senators.