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June 26, 2018

King Highlights Impact of Pre-Existing Conditions Protections on Fight Against Opioids

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a press conference today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) discussed the importance of the Affordable Care Act’s protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions –particularly for individuals struggling with substance use disorders. Substance use disorders are considered a pre-existing condition, meaning that if allowed to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions, insurers could refuse to cover or increase prices for individuals who have a history of substance use disorders, including opioid addiction – possibly deterring individuals battling addiction from seeking treatment.

“The opioid crisis is the most serious public health crisis my state has ever faced,” said Senator King. “If you go into treatment for opioid addiction, that becomes a pre-existing condition which you would then have to reveal when you apply for health insurance. The last thing we need is an impediment to people seeking treatment for opioid addiction. It’s hard enough to get people to take that step, and the tragedy is when they take that step, there isn’t enough treatment to be had. But to put an additional burden to say, if you do this – to a parent for example – this would be a pre-existing condition that will follow you the rest of your life, and impair to your ability to get insurance at all, or insurance at a reasonable price, I think is an absolute tragedy. And to compound the opioid addiction problem by adding this impediment to it, I just think is unconscionable…a change in the law that would make it more difficult to access treatment, I think is a tragedy for our country and it’s certainly a tragedy for the people of Maine.”

In his remarks, Senator King referenced a conversation he convened last week with Maine people with  pre-existing conditions, health care advocates and medical professionals. During the discussion, one of the participants highlighted this potential impact on the battle against opioids. Senator King has made combatting the opioid crisis one of his top priorities in Washington, and has convened eight roundtables throughout Maine – from Portland to Bangor to Milo to Paris – to speak with health professionals, first responders, community members, and people in recovery to find ways to help people get better and make Maine communities safer and healthier. He has repeatedly called on Congress and both the Obama and Trump administrations to fund laws and agencies that help address the drug epidemic. In November 2017, he led a letter to the Trump Administration urging additional funding for the opioid epidemic, and in October he joined with a group of colleagues to introduce the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act legislation that would invest $45 billion for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioids. Senator King also recently wrote to President Trump urging him to allow the government to negotiate lower prices for life-saving opioid overdose reversal drugs like Naloxone.

Senator King has been outspoken in opposition to Administration moves and legislative proposals that seek to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this month, he released a video on his social media accounts criticizing the DOJ’s “downright cruel” decision. In October, he spoke on the Senate floor in advance of ACA Open Enrollment Period regarding the “sabotage” efforts underway from the Administration. At the same time, Senator King has pursued agreements that would improve the Affordable Care Act to protect coverage for the millions who rely on it for affordable health care, and has developed several proposals to make common sense fixes to the legislation. During the health care debate last summer, Senator King outlined a roadmap of health care priorities to stabilize the health care marketplace and lower the underlying costs of treatment and health coverage for people in Maine and across the country. He is a cosponsor of the bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to stabilize the individual health insurance marketplace.


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