There is a great deal of debate about how the Affordable Care Act's mandates have driven costs up, but it's important to keep addiction treatment coverage through expanded Medicaid programs as part of a reform package, Sen. Rob Portman said Tuesday, while discussing the ongoing confirmation hearings for Health and Human Services secretary nominee Tom Price.
"I would be concerned and specifically with regard to Medicaid expansion," the Ohio Republican told CNN's "New Day" anchor Chris Cuomo. "What we've seen in Ohio is many people who need that treatment are now being covered by that expansion."
Gov. John Kasich, a former presidential candidate, has pushed for the expansions to better cover his state's insurance needs, said Portman, but he believes it's also important that the addiction services are kept intact.
"We are facing an epidemic, not just in Ohio where we happen to be facing it, more intently than other states, but all around the country," said Portman. "I believe from the data we're getting, it's getting worse, not better. More people are falling into that addiction trap. So it's opioids, prescription drugs, fentanyl."
Price, while asked during a hearing whether mental health services and addiction coverage should continue to be offered, "vacillated," said Cuomo. Instead, Price answered that it's important that options and choices for patients remain available, which Cuomo called a "nonanswer," while asking Portman if he's concerned that the incoming HHS secretary could take addiction services away.
"I would be concerned and specifically with regard to Medicaid expansion," said Portman, saying lawmakers will talk to Price about the issue.
"I think he was talking more about the exchanges and what should the mandates be," the senator said. "There's a lot of honest debate about whether the Affordable Care Act put so many mandates in place that it's driven costs up."
Portman also discussed President Donald Trump's executive order pulling the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying that he also thought the pact was not a good one and in some places was weak.
"One was with regard to autos, actually because there's a rules of origin that would allow autos to come in from Japan with a lot of parts coming from other countries, including China that are not part of the agreement," said Portman.
"That didn't seem fair and we made that point repeatedly."
But he does think that pulling out can be approved, as "even Republicans who support the concept of it because of the importance of having that agreement. They have concerns about some of the specifics. "
China has been finding all the voids in trade as it could during President Barack Obama's administration, as well in other matters when American presence was pulled out, Portman said.
"We did withdraw in terms of our American presence around the world to the point that both Russia, China and other actors have stepped in," said Portman.
"What's happened in the South China Sea is an example . . . I think the United States needs to continue to play a key role in Asia."
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