I often cite the fact that prescription opiates, the most tightly government controlled drugs, contribute to more overdose deaths than any illegal drug, when debating for the legalization of marijuana.
But that is where my agreement ends with the recently vetoed HB 1, which would extend Medicaid coverage to the costs of medications and therapy for opioid addiction.
Regardless of the dire state of the State of Illinois’ finances, this would be a foolhardy measure.
Drug addiction is a very complex disease, but a disease nonetheless. Like all diseases, it should be treated and funded in the private sector, voluntarily, and without taxpayer dollars.
Unlike other diseases though, addiction is largely voluntary. Those who “recover” from opioid addiction have a 90 percent rate of relapse. How many times should taxpayers foot the bill for opioid recovery? Forced recovery has the least effectiveness, as the key to recovery is a desire to recover.
In any case, using taxpayer money for such treatment will have the same effect on treatment costs as it has had on tuition, mortgages, etc. Blindly throwing taxpayer dollars at a problem always drives up the costs.
There is no question that opioid addiction is a problem; but rarely, if ever, is such a problem solved by government. We throw billions of dollars at education and our nation trails other developed countries ranking 35th in math and 37th in science out of 64 countries tested. The vast majority of government program cost is the lavish, gold-plated pensions.
The more we make government responsible for our choices, the less responsibility we will take for our own actions.
At a time when Illinois is in dire financial straits, we should be looking at more ways to cut spending and programs, particularly those that belong in the private sector. Expanding programs at this time in Illinois’ history is reckless and irresponsible. If we continue on this path of increased spending, Illinois will no longer be able to provide even the most basic services. There just isn’t enough taxpayer money!
Rae Ann McNeilly is executive director of Taxpayers United of America, headquartered in Chicago.