Obamacare did not cause the opioid epidemic

This argument has been popping up on social media. However it absolutely’s rebuked by the elemental thought of time.

Did Obamacare set off the opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic?

That’s what Conn Carroll, communications director for Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee, immediate on Wednesday night, tweeting that “expanded coverage helped CAUSE the opioid crisis” and “free pills means more addicts.” It’s not merely Carroll; I’ve moreover seen this argument pop up an rising variety of on social media as discussions about Obamacare repeal’s effect on the opioid epidemic have carried out out.

The argument: By rising entry to insurance coverage protection, further people had been ready to go to docs and procure opioid painkillers. These painkillers, as we now know, are an unlimited driver of overdoses by themselves, and the capsules’ proliferation acquired people hooked on opioids, in the end essential them to completely different opioids like heroin and fentanyl.

There’s just one downside with this precept: the elemental thought of time.

Obamacare was signed into regulation in 2010. Nevertheless its essential safety provisions took years to kick in, with Healthcare.gov launching in 2013 and the Medicaid enlargement formally starting in 2014.

Nevertheless the opioid epidemic was correctly underway by 2010, starting throughout the late 1990s as docs began prescribing opioids in droves. Really, the 12 months after Obamacare handed, opioid painkiller overdoses plateaued, and the quick rise in heroin deaths began as people moved from painkillers to completely different opioids.

It’s really doable that straightforward accessibility to opioid painkillers, perhaps pushed in a roundabout method by insurance coverage protection safety, was a component throughout the epidemic. In any case, with out the proliferation of these capsules, the epidemic would have certainly not started throughout the first place.

Nevertheless the timeline merely doesn’t match the assertion that Obamacare helped set off the opioid epidemic.

There’s moreover a case to be made that increased insurance coverage protection safety could have prevented the rise in opioid deaths. As Northeastern School drug protection expert Leo Beletsky pointed out and others have argued, certainly one of many massive causes that docs resorted to opioid painkillers to cope with their victims’ ache throughout the first place is because of painkillers provided an inexpensive, easy reply, notably compared with completely different ache therapies, resembling bodily treatment, which could have been further work and perhaps too costly. Larger insurance coverage protection could have made the upper choices to ache further moderately priced, avoiding the switch in direction of opioids throughout the first place. (Although this opportunity desires further analysis.)

And at this degree, it’s clear insurance coverage protection safety is important to serving to battle the opioid epidemic. With out insurance coverage protection, most Folks with drug use points are merely not going to have the flexibility to afford the type of rehabilitation and remedy they need to handle their addictions. As Jessica Goense, who’s recovering from dependancy at a New Jersey program with the help of Medicaid safety, recently told me, “If it wasn’t for insurance, I wouldn’t be here.”

So Obamacare didn’t set off the opioid epidemic. And the safety it provides is the one issue serving to quite a lot of Folks — as a lot as 2.eight million, by one estimate — lastly cope with their dependancy.

For further on the opioid epidemic, study Vox’s explainer (or the abridged version).