Raises Concerns for Survival of Critical Access Hospitals
Feb 25 2016
This week, more than 20 hearings for fiscal year 2017 budgets are being held by U.S. House appropriations subcommittees on Capitol Hill. As Chairman of the Approprations Committee, Congressman Hal Rogers (KY-05) expressed his concern for national priorities during those hearings, including efforts to curb heroin and prescription drug abuse across several federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
During a budget hearing with the FBI, Rogers questioned Director James Comey about the rising tide of heroin abuse.
"Those abusing prescription painkillers often turn to heroin as a cheap alternative. In just the last decade, heroin in America has increased 63 percent," stated Rogers. "As I understand it, the emergence of the powerful synthetic fentanyl on the black market has dramatically increased the potency of heroin and heroin-related deaths along with it."
"Almost all of it - the methamphetamine and heroin - are coming from Mexico. There's lots of challenges to the interdiction effort and I believe it is an emergency in the United States," said Comey. "Fentanyl is 40 to 50 times more powerful than heroin and they're mixing it, a lot of which comes from China, which is something we're now focused on. Even the people who have gotten used to heroin are killed in a snap. There are tens of thousands of people dying from opioid abuse and heroin."
Acknowledging Secretary Burwell's sweeping proposal to combat opioid abuse, Rogers took issue with the Administration's efforts to shift an estimated $3.8 billion from discretionary to mandatory spending, including $1 billion to address the nation's opioid epidemic.
"Fifteen to 20 years ago Oxycontin was just rearing its head in Appalachian. Ten years ago, heroin was just a blip on the radar, but today opioid abuse has spread to every corner of the country, cheap heroin is being laced with fentanyl so strong that unsuspecting abusers die every day from overdose," said Rogers. "With the fight against drugs changing at the speed of light, it seems irresponsible to tie our hands with inflexible mandatory funding. We need to be agile, adapting to the needs as they arise."
Rogers also shared concerns for HHS budget cuts to struggling critical access hospitals in rural parts of the country.
"These hospitals face a unique set of challenges. In my rural district, we have seven critical access hospitals. Many of them are already struggling to keep their doors open," said Rogers. "Some of the proposals in the President's budget will compound their financial troubles."
Secretary Burwell said budget cuts would be balanced by Medicare payments to critical access facilities that receive more reimbursements than non-critical access hospitals.
Click here to watch the HHS hearing and the FBI hearing.