Rep. Jim Renacci Spreads Debunked Lie: Opioid Crisis Caused By Medicaid

Republican Rep. Jim Renacci of Ohio, who is running for governor, falsely claimed that Medicaid expansion in Ohio and other states may have caused the current opioid crisis, but gave the drug companies that actually manufacture opioids a free pass.

Renacci first called for legal consequence for people who overdose on drugs, and then he blamed increased access to health care (Medicaid expansion) for drug addiction during an interview with WAKR radio:

Medicaid in many ways was the driver of some of this opioid addiction as well because it was easy to prescribe this kind of a drug

As a matter of record, Medicaid does not make it “easier” to prescribe any drug. In fact, Medicaid has nothing to do with prescribing drugs, which is left up to doctors.

Renacci then complained about his real issue, spending American tax dollars on American health care — Medicaid and Medicare– and Social Security. 

Renacci then used correlational logic (not causation logic) to try to blame opioid addiction on Medicaid:

If [the expansion was] needed, how come 19 states that have not expanded Medicaid are doing better than Ohio? And how come Ohio, who’s the number one state dependent on Medicaid expansion, is also the number one state for opioid overdose and addiction? The numbers and the facts just don’t lie.

California has expanded Medicaid and does not have the opioid crisis that Ohio has even though the Golden State has much a larger population.

Andrew Goodman-Bacon and Emma Sandoe recently wrote in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal, how Republicans are trying to demonize medicaid expansion to gut it:

Political commentators, including some politicians, use this claim to justify their support for federal Medicaid cuts, despite the fact that Medicaid finances a significant amount of treatment for opioid use disorder…

First, trends in opioid deaths nationally and by Medicaid expansion status predate the ACA [or “Obamacare”, in which the expansion was first implemented]. Second, counties with the largest coverage gains actually experienced smaller increases in drug-related mortality than counties with smaller coverage gains.

Third, the fact that Medicaid recipients fill more opioid prescriptions than non-recipients largely reflects greater levels of disability and chronic illness in the populations that Medicaid serves.

Opioid use, abuse, and mortality increased rapidly thereafter. In just five years from 1997 to 2002, OxyContin prescriptions for non-cancer pain grew from 670,000 to 6.2 million… The opioid epidemic started decades before Medicaid expanded.

(Source: WAKR/NewsTalkSports via Soundcloud, US House of Representatives/Wikimedia, Health Affairs)

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