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Letter: Cuomo made a bad decision in vetoing treatment options

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent decision to veto legislation that expands access and treatment options for poor New Yorkers battling addiction flies in the face of his self-proclaimed “making progress happen” ethos.

Even worse, he signed similar legislation that applies only to commercial health insurance companies. Under other circumstances this law would represent a meaningful step forward in ending the opioid epidemic. But his failure to apply the same standard to Medicaid creates an unequal and two-tiered system.

People with means now have access – guaranteed by state law that was to take effect March 1 – to the full complement of addiction treatment medicines, on-demand and without prior authorization. Dangerous prior authorizations remain in place for Medicaid recipients and many life-saving medicines are not covered, usurping the judgment of doctors and reducing the chance for a successful outcome.

A recent study showed this bill alone would have saved nearly 600 lives and $50 million annually.

This is bad public health policy and creates a health care chasm in New York during the worst-ever crisis of overdose and addiction. The governor and legislature should do the right thing and pass and sign this bill in 2020.

Thomas Small, M.D.


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