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Attorneys general to Trump: Don’t cut drug treatment funds

Updated: 
April 21, 2017 - 8:22am

WASHINGTON DC — The top government lawyers from 19 states are telling President Donald Trump and the Republican leaders of Congress not to pass health insurance changes that would stop the flow of federal drug treatment money.

A letter sent Friday by a group of attorneys general for 19 states plus Washington D.C., is the latest in a series of actions from Democrats who hold those offices to oppose Trump’s policies and actions.

It comes a day after Trump touted progress on a “great plan” to overhaul the nation’s health care system, saying a deal could come together next week. Many Republican officials are skeptical that action could come so quickly. Trump didn’t offer details on the plan.

The attorneys general’s letter said that a bill that died last month could have eventually cut more than $13 billion a year in treatment funding through a combination of direct cuts and caps on Medicaid. Medicaid changes could have ended coverage for an estimated 24 million people; for many with addictions, the taxpayer funded health insurance program is the only way to pay for treatment.

They attorneys general warned any plan like that would be a blow to a country dealing with an epidemic of addiction to opioids including heroin, fentanyl and prescription pain drugs. The drugs contributed to the deaths of nearly 29,000 Americans in 2014. The officials said law enforcement alone can’t solve the problem.

“In the midst of an ongoing public health crisis,” the letter said, “the federal government cannot abandon this commitment to our communities.”

Last month, Trump announced that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would head a federal task force to make recommendations on dealing with the opioid crisis.

For the past decade, attorneys general have often stood up to presidents, particularly those from the opposite party.

The opioid letter, like other objections to Trump’s stances, was not joined by any Republicans. Attorneys general in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state and Washington D.C., all signed.

This year, Democratic attorneys general have also banded together to object to issues including Trump’s proposed travel restrictions and his plans to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Some have sued over the travel ban, prompting courts to block implementation.

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