Obamacare led to opioid epidemic
Congress is completely missing how to handle the opioid crisis.
There have been a lot of misconceptions recently about the opioid crisis. Some say judicial supervision and drug courts are the answer. It’s this line of thinking that keeps us on the road to nowhere.
The typical person who is becoming addicted to opioids is not a criminal, but our neighbors — everyday, hardworking people who contribute to our community.
It’s Frank who fell off the ladder cleaning leaves out of his gutter over the weekend. It’s Trent who broke his leg running for a first down during Friday night football. It’s Lisa who developed chronic back pain from years of mounting and dismounting her family farm’s tractor.
These are not people who are obtaining these drugs illegally — they are our friends and neighbors who became addicted without even knowing it.
We’ve got to fight this on the front end, not the back end. We can’t treat this like the War on Drugs from the 1980s. We know where the opioids are coming from — they’re being obtained legally via prescriptions from physicians.
We even know a primary cause of the opioid epidemic: Obamacare.
Obamacare put patients and physicians in a no-win situation. Obamacare does not incentivize doing the right thing, in fact it penalizes physicians. If someone comes in “pain shopping,” and the physician does not prescribe the patient pain pills, the physician gets penalized for not giving it to them based on Obamacare’s rating system. Under Obamacare, patients rate their satisfaction with the doctors, and payment to doctors is based partially on these ratings.
As the bad ratings pile up and addicted patients keep doctor shopping, the government will restrict the physician’s ability to practice medicine through reduced payments and other penalties. Basically, good ratings mean you keep getting business and keep practicing. Bad ratings mean the government puts you out of business.
The Obamacare rating system is the height of political correctness. It rewards patients to get drugs to feel good, while at the same time, punishes providers if they do not give the patient opioids. And it must change.
The bottom line is we should be working to prevent people from becoming addicted, not working to do something after the patient already has the pain pills. Take some of the things President Trump and his task force are recommending — why don’t we start there?
According to notes from whitehouse.gov and members of the president’s task force, we should be working to educate patients and the prescribing physicians on the risks associated with prescribing addictive opioids. We should be training providers to identify early signs of abuse if the patient has an opioid prescription. We should expand monitoring programs that provide alerts when a patient has been “pain shopping” with providers and pharmacies.
These simple solutions can be implemented quickly and rapidly. We need to drop the stigma in our everyday vernacular that if someone is addicted to opioids, they need to go to drug court and explain themselves. They are not criminals; they need help. Most addiction starts with legal drugs, but if the addiction crosses the line and becomes criminal activity, then they need to be prosecuted.
We need to continue educating and having an open dialogue about the dangers of opioids. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, not a poor or rich issue, nor a race issue — addiction to opioids does not discriminate and has no boundaries.
This is a battle we cannot lose. Join me in being part of the solution.
Come to the Healthcare Town Hall from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Monday at The Old Country Store in Jackson and let your voice be heard