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Donald Norcross recently announced legislation that would lift the burden of supervised treatment for those with opioid use disorder. Before the pandemic, patients had to get their methadone treatment on-site, which required many to miss work or travel long distances. The requirement was eased during the pandemic and allowed for at-home treatment. The Opioid Treatment Access Act would make these accommodations permanent. While I’m excited by the prospects of enhancing treatment convenience for patients in recovery, this bill would only help those who already have access to treatment. There’s a part of this story that is missing – and I know it because it’s my family’s story:

The truth is opioid treatment patients are paying thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket costs. Family members are depleting their life savings to pay for rehabilitation denied by insurance companies. The pain of watching a loved one suffer with opioid use disorder is enhanced by the insurance companies who undermine recovery. Norcross does not support the legislation that would guarantee opioid treatment for all patients, regardless of income – H.R. 1976, a universal healthcare system. Its implementation would make the Norcross insurance brokerage obsolete.

He announced The Act in front of The Recovery Village in Cherry Hill, NJ (Cooper Hospital). Their website reads: “Low-cost rehabs typically do not have the amenities found in private facilities…Most free clinics have a waiting list, meaning clients could be waiting weeks or even months.” For patients who can’t afford their treatment costs, the center has recommendations: “The internet has helped many families pay for medical expenses…Websites like GoFundMe allow people to raise money for a variety of different life situations, including drug addiction treatment. You can also fundraise through more traditional options, such as hosting a garage sale.”

A single-payer universal healthcare system would protect patients from being relegated to second-class treatment because of their income status and it wouldn’t just benefit patients in recovery. It would guarantee healthcare as a human right from the time of birth and include comprehensive services. A Yale University study confirms a single-payer system would save $450 billion and 68,000 lives annually.

Donald Norcross suggests, “People struggling with opioid addiction…deserve dignity.” I agree. That means creating a universal healthcare system that doesn’t require patients to host garage sales to pay for their treatment.