Center Submits TESTIMONY on Misguided Opioid Tax Bill for Senate Hearing Today
Families and Businesses Would be Harmed by Proposed Opioid Tax
Providence, RI— Dr. Stephen Skoly, Chairman of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, penned the following opinion piece, which the Center submitted this week as written testimony to the Senate Committee on Finance for Tuesday’s hearing of the the so-called «Opioid Stewardship Act» – a bill, S0798 – that would place a tax on the addictive pain-killing drug.
Dr. Skoly, who has ample experience dealing with patients and similar drugs as part of his work as a maxilofacial surgeon in Cranston, wrote in part:
«The opioid epidemic is a widespread, complicated problem, and only a collective effort will begin to solve it. The healthcare community and lawmakers need to work in tandem to find policies that effectively lessen opioid abuse while still keeping our state’s economic health as well the health and safety of the patient in mind. It’s unfortunate, however, that Senate Bill S0798, the Opioid Stewardship Act, fails on both accounts.
This bill seeks to levy $7.5 million in annual taxes on the healthcare system for the distribution of prescription opioid medications to healthcare facilities throughout our state, including pharmacies, hospitals, and urgent care clinics. The motivation behind the legislation is clear; legislators seeking to disincentivize use by taxing the products that they believe have contributed to growing rates of addiction and overdose. However well-intentioned, this is a costly approach that misses the mark.
Prescription opioids serve a clinical and legitimate medical purpose. Postoperative analgesia, cancer, trauma, and chronic disease are just a few examples of the many medical conditions and procedures that require opioid- containing medications.
Just like all taxes imposed by lawmakers, there will be reactions as these added costs will somehow be passed onto patients in the healthcare system. Employers that provide health coverage could see insurance premiums rise, while families could experience higher prescription costs; all for an epidemic being fueled by illegal behavior that S0798 would not address.
Those suffering and without adequate insurance would be most impacted, and would be incentivized to seek more dangerous drugs on the underground market.
As a medical professional, I find it morally reprehensible that our lawmakers might inflict economic pain on patients who are suffering acute physical pain; especially at a time when Rhode Island has one of the worst economies in the entire country.
I find it confounding that Rhode Island lawmakers would draw inspiration from another state’s misguided legislation. Reacting to a crisis in haste, just to claim you did something, is itself misguided. This legislation represents another example of «not letting a crisis go to waste.»
Finally, it is important to recognize that addiction is neither a moral failing nor a character flaw. Rather, it is a chronic disease much like heart disease. Even our legislators should be morally offended by supporting a misguided tax on a chronic disease to balance their budget.
Rather than relying on added taxes, our lawmakers should promote more sensible solutions such as supporting efforts by our law enforcement agencies to purge our state of illegal drugs and by encouraging continued education of patients about the potential risks surrounding prescription opioid medications.
This tax would do nothing to address the core problems of inappropriate use and illegal distribution of opioids.»
Dr. Skoly’s full oped can be viewed here: https://rifreedom.org/