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Portsmouth Herald: Hassan hears worries about Trumpcare

Portsmouth Herald: Hassan hears worries about Trumpcare

SOMERSWORTH — Local health care officials and community members told U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan during a visit to the Hilltop City Friday that they are concerned next week’s expected federal health care vote could undo much of New Hampshire’s progress to stem the opioid epidemic.

According to Hassan, D-N.H., the latest version of Senate Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act could be voted on Tuesday. She held a community forum at Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth on Friday to hear stories from some of the Granite Staters who would be most affected by a repeal of the ACA and Medicaid expansion.

Hassan said personal stories like these helped change the conversation about addiction in New Hampshire, and attendees said Friday the proposed slashes to Medicaid show senators don’t understand how it would worsen one of the region’s biggest problems.

“If they could witness what we witness on a daily basis, I don’t think that we would be having this discussion,” said Joann Buonomano, a family medicine practitioner at Goodwin Community Health. “Recovery needs to be part of regular care, not separate.”

In addition to rolling back Medicaid expansion, the revised Senate bill, referred to by some as Trumpcare, would convert Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to a system of fixed payments to states.

The bill includes $45 billion to help combat substance misuse disorder, although Hassan said a colleague of hers aptly likened that sum to a “spit in the ocean.”

Hassan said the ACA does have its flaws, although she said she and her Democratic colleagues have proposed bills to amend and build upon the system rather than completely “rip away” coverage from millions of Americans.

“If you truly believe that every single person in a democracy matters and counts, then you have to have a way to make sure that everybody gets healthcare,” said Hassan. “I cannot tell you if this bill goes through that there will be (recovery) treatment available at the quantity we need it in New Hampshire to not only save lives, but then to help people build the kind of lives that all of us want.”

Many of the attendees at Friday’s community forum shared stories about their own recovery or their patients’ recoveries, nearly all of which involved Medicaid expansion giving them direct access to treatment for misusing substances like heroin and fentanyl.

Mariah McLeod relapsed on heroin several years ago when, prior to Medicaid expansion, her suboxone wasn’t covered or available to her. The local mother temporarily lost custody of her daughter, as well as lost her license as a nursing assistant.

McLeod, who was tearful Friday while telling her story, said Goodwin Community Health’s intensive outpatient program saved her life.

“They don’t judge you when you come here,” she said. “They don’t let you fall. They catch you. They helped me get on track for my kids and now I’m on track to have a life with them.”

Elizabeth Atwood, who works at SOS Recovery Community Organization’s Rochester center, said holding onto Medicaid is immensely important because without it many wouldn’t be able to find help.

She said she owes her recovery to Medicaid and the ACA. At one point, Atwood was homeless and lost custody of her son, and if not for New Horizons in Manchester and their assistance in helping her obtaining Medicaid, she said she’s not sure where her path would’ve led her.

“I just really want to emphasize the ripple effect that recovery has on the community,” said Atwood. “It’s not just because I’m in recovery that I can help somebody else. Everyone around me is impacted. When we talk about the recovery revolution, it’s about how everyone in the community is affected when someone gets into recovery.”

Yulia Rothenberg, a member of Goodwin Community Health’s board, first came to the center looking for healthcare after she was laid off from the company for which she had worked for more than 20 years.

The caring community she found made all the difference for Rothenberg, and she said it’s scary to think that the decision on the ACA’s repeal could be dictated by bottom lines instead of human beings.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a relatively healthy person like myself or people with life conditions, we all need help, we all need a supporting community and we all need to feel like we’re not going to be thrown out onto the curb just because we don’t have money,” she said.