DNC on Trump’s Failure to Address the Opioid Epidemic

Ahead of the White House opioid summit today, DNC spokesperson Daniel Wessel released the following statement:


“Trump’s empty words mean nothing to the millions of Americans struggling with addiction. Time and again Trump has stood in front of the American people and promised to fight the opioid epidemic, yet he has consistently failed to deliver. Meanwhile, behind the scenes he continues to take steps that would make this growing crisis even worse. Actions speak a lot louder than words. With people’s lives on the line each day, Trump’s actions say he does not take this crisis seriously.”


Here are some of the many ways Trump has failed to address the opioid epidemic, and even made it worse:


Trump broke his promise to take meaningful action to address the opioid epidemic.


Vox: “Trump’s Pathetic Response To The Opioid Epidemic” 


Politico: “Trump declared an opioids emergency. Then nothing changed.”


The Guardian: “Health Experts Say Trump’s Opioid Response Relies On Magical Thinking.”


Trump ignored his own opioid commission’s advice by failing to declare the opioid crisis a full-on national emergency, settling instead for a more limited declaration that lacked new funding sources.


New York Times Editorial: “He declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, which sounds urgent but doesn’t free any significant new money to fight it. In doing so, he ignored the plea of his own opioids commission to declare a full-on national emergency, which would immediately free billions of dollars for emergency response, addiction treatment and efforts to stop the flow of illegal opioids into the country — a comprehensive approach that is so far missing.


Vox: “And although Trump’s emergency declaration was renewed last week, it has led to essentially no action since it was first signed — no significant new resources, no major new initiatives.” 


Politico: “President Donald Trump in October promised to ‘liberate’ Americans from the ‘scourge of addiction,’ officially declaring a 90-day public health emergency that would urgently mobilize the federal government to tackle the opioid epidemic. That declaration runs out on Jan. 23, and beyond drawing more attention to the crisis, virtually nothing of consequence has been done.” 


CNN: “President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a 90-day public health emergency in October, but did not make any new funding available.” 


Trump’s decision to promote the use of short-term junk insurance plans would lead to more policies that don’t cover substance abuse treatment.


New York Times Editorial: “The Department of Health and Human Services wants to let companies sell temporary health insurance policies that last up to 364 days, up from 90 days now. […] Not mentioned in the department’s talking points is the fact that these policies often do not cover things like mental health services, substance abuse treatment, cancer drugs and maternity care. As a result, people who buy such skimpy plans could end up being hit with exorbitant bills if they actually need medical care.”


Trump proposed a budget that would limit access to existing opioid treatment options, undermine the office that coordinates White House drug policies, and cut $688 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


Vox: “But it also takes some big steps back – by slashing other funding sources that help people access treatment for opioid addiction, particularly through the budget’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) and cut Medicaid.”  


The Hill: “The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration would face a reduction of $688 million cut, coming out to about $3.5 billion for 2019.”


Vox: “The proposal would cut the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) budget by more than 90 percent, in large part by shifting the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program — which provides support to law enforcement agencies to combat drug trafficking — to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Because ONDCP (also known as the drug czar’s office) plays such a large role in setting national drug policy, some advocates worry that the smaller budget could hinder the overall federal response to the opioid crisis.”


The repeal of the ACA individual mandate in Trump’s tax plan could harm addiction treatment, as millions more Americans become uninsured. 


Mother Jones: “The Republican Tax Plan Is A Disaster For Addiction Treatment.”


Bloomberg Editorial: “In its failure to repeal Obamacare this fall, Congress should have learned a simple lesson: Americans want the government to see that everyone has health insurance. Instead, the Republican majority tirelessly insists on moving in the opposite direction. Thus, their shambles of a tax bill repeals Obamacare's requirement that everyone have health insurance. This change would cause some 13 million fewer people to have insurance by 2026.”


Trump’s decision to make it easier for states to impose Medicaid work requirements could hurt those fighting drug addiction. 


New York Times: “Medicaid has a major role in combating the opioid epidemic, paying for a wide range of treatments and medications. But people addicted to opioids are often unable to work or to find jobs, and some employers are reluctant to hire people who fail drug tests.”


            Politico: “GOP Medicaid Work Rules Imperil Care For Opioid Abusers.”


Despite hard evidence that the Affordable Care Act has helped extend treatment for opioid-use disorders, Trump has repeatedly endorsed repeal bills that would make it harder to address the opioid epidemic.


Bloomberg: “Repealing the ACA and its behavioral health provisions could leave 1.2 million people with serious mental health disorders and 2.8 million people with a substance use disorder without some or all their insurance coverage, according to Richard Frank, a professor of health economics at Harvard Medical School.”


FiveThirtyEight: “Medicaid expansion under Obamacare opened up treatment options in many states experiencing high rates of opioid deaths and addiction. If the Medicaid expansion is phased out, which the Senate bill proposes to do, that’s a problem not only for funding treatment but also for keeping existing clinics and treatment centers up and running.


Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Medicaid Expansion Dramatically Increased Coverage for People with Opioid-Use Disorders, Latest Data Show.”