Brown: Rewriting Obamacare could adversely impact 200,000 Ohioans

BROWN MEETS THE PRESS — Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, meets reporters after his breakfast with the presidents of the Ohio Farm Bureau Tuesday morning in Washington. - Paul Giannamore

WASHINGTON, D.C — The rewriting of Obamacare could adversely impact treatment of as many as 200,000 opioid-addicted Ohioans, according to Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Brown spoke Tuesday morning to the Ohio Farm Bureau presidents visiting Washington for their annual lobbying trip on Capitol Hill.

While he drew some moans saying President Obama had misspoken when he said people would be able to keep their doctors, he said most people were able to do so. Brown said health care premiums aren’t rising as rapidly as they would have if the system had been left alone in 2009.

The biggest issue for rewriting the national health care policy will be how to deal with Ohioans who were covered by the expansion of Medicaid. Brown said 900,000 Ohioans have coverage who otherwise wouldn’t have, including 700,000 under the Medicaid expansion, 100,000 who are on their parents’ policies through age 26 and 100,000 who bought coverage on the market exchanges.

Included in the number who could lose coverage are 200,000 who are receiving opioid addiction treatment, Brown said.

More Ohioans are dying from opioid addiction than residents of any other state, according to Brown. (The claim is backed by a report on 2014 figures from the Kaiser Foundation in terms of the number of deaths, not a per-capita figure. West Virginia leads in per capita opioid deaths in 2015, according to the CDC.) He said he worked with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on a bill to scale up opioid treatment centers, but more must be done. Waiting lists for treatment remain too long, with people dying or ending up in prison while awaiting treatment, Brown said.

“It’s something that as a nation and as a state we need to get way more serious than we’ve gotten,” he said. He said he, Portman and Gov. John Kasich have begun speaking about making sure 700,000 people who received coverage under the Medicaid expansion are kept under coverage. Most are from full-time jobs but without available insurance.

“200,000 Ohioans today are getting treatment for opioid addiction because of the Affordable Care Act. That is a cautionary note on what Congress needs to do on this,” he said.

He said the reason the health care act failed is because it did not do enough to entice young, healthy Americans to obtain insurance, which would pay for the higher costs claims of older or sicker people. He said that’s the basic premise in Medicare, where healthier people in their 60s pay for sicker people in their 80s, and everyone has to pay into the system.

Brown also addressed a question about helping immigrants who work on Ohio farms.

“There is too much fear among too many people in this country,” Brown said.

Brown hopes for a rebuilding of a coalition that nearly passed immigration reform several years ago.

“It will be good for our country. It’s good for agriculture,” he said, noting that the hatred falls apart on logic considering that immigrants are called “lazy” and are accused of “wanting to steal our jobs.”

He noted in the 1830s, the “Know-Nothing Party” was founded to keep immigrants out and spoke of a group that had a weird language and religion, was lazy and wanted Americans’ jobs. It was the German Catholics at the time.

Later, meeting with reporters, Brown said he was “taken” by Rowe’s comments.

“I just wish we could stop the name calling. When the president of the United States refers to a big swath of people in an old Soviet term, ‘Enemies of the people,’ that’s troubling. When you call immigrants names or make fun of somebody because of their religion, that’s troubling because that’s not who we are as a country.”

Brown said it’s bad for the nation’s values, the nation’s social fabric, the immigrants living in fear of deportation or violence and it’s bad for the economy.

“We need to work on how we deal with that, not building walls. They work hard. We’ve all seen them in various kinds of work and on various kinds of farms.”

The topic was taken up again by Zippy Duvall of Georgia, American Farm Bureau president.

“Nobody is looking into my (ethnic) background. We should judge people by their heart and their work ethic,” he said.

(Giannamore can be contacted at pgiannamore@heraldstaronline.com.)

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