Federal HHS pledges support in opioid crisis

Sununu says recovery will continue even with Trumpcare cuts

Staff photo by Damien Fisher U.S. Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price said Wednesday that no one, including those in recovery, will lose medical care despite proposed cuts to Medicaid.

CONCORD – Saying the fight against the opioid addiction crisis is currently a losing battle, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and key presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway, pledged help to New Hampshire deal with its drug scourge.

“We know that we are on the losing side of this battle, currently, and we should be honest about that,” Conway said.

Gov. Chris Sununu met with Conway, Price and New Hampshire leaders involved in the fight against opioids on Wednesday. While both Price and Conway said the addiction crisis hitting New Hampshire and many other states is a priority, they did not lay out any specific ways the federal government is coming to help.

Instead, the “listening tour” in New Hampshire is one of many that Price and Conway are taking part in throughout the country to get ideas of what is needed to deal with the crisis.

“We feel that the people closest to the needs know their needs bets,” Conway said.

Price said President Donald Trump is “all in” on the fight against this epidemic, making it a priority for his administration. So far, Price’s office is targeting ways to make sure treatment and recovery can continue, and to make sure the opioid-blocking drug, Narcan, is more readily available to stop overdoses from becoming fatal. He also wants to hear from states about what is working and what resources are needed.

Sununu said recovery and treatment for those dealing with addiction in vital, despite his support for the Republican-backed health care law that phases out the Medicaid expansion that took place under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). More than 50,000 New Hampshire residents were able to get health care through the Medicaid expansion, including many people now getting treatment for addiction.

Sununu said he has some reservations with the bill as passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, though he has not stated what those reservations are. He said something needs to be done on health care after former President Barack Obama “did nothing” during his eight years in office.

“Failure to reform our healthcare system in the United States is not an option,” Sununu said.

Obama pushed through the Affordable Care Act early in his first term in office, of which, Medicaid expansion was a key component.

Price said that whatever the final bill is that comes out of the U.S. Senate, and signed into law by Trump, it will make sure that no one is left without coverage.

“(The bill will make sure) that nobody falls through the cracks, that no rug is pulled out from under anybody, we’ll make sure that coverage and the care is available to every single American,” Price said.

Price also met with U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., who expressed her concerns about the current Republican health care reform proposal.

“The Republican healthcare bill poses a serious threat to efforts to address the opioid crisis in New Hampshire and across the country,” Kuster said in a statement released shortly after her meeting with Price. “I hope that after hearing from people in New Hampshire, Secretary Price will have an appreciation for the importance of preserving access to treatment and recovery services that were established by the ACA.”