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PolitiFact Florida Takes On Opioid Abuse Claim; Rubio On Child Tax Credits

Did Obamacare exacerbate the opioid crisis in America? And is expanding the child tax credit the only way the middle class will get a break from the GOP's proposed tax plan? We tackle those claims with Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida.

The opioid crisis continues to dominate the news, with President Trump recently declaring it a national emergency.

It didn't take long for that action to take a decidedly political bent. 

Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz shared this factoid on Twitter on Oct. 17: "Opioid crisis the worst in ObamaCare expansion states!"

Here's the ruling from PolitiFact Florida:

Thirty-two states plus D.C. currently have adopted Medicaid benefits to all adults. The expansion for most states went into effect in January 2014. The timeframe matters because the most recent data is from 2015, meaning there’s not a lot of data to work with.
In 2015, the five states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose were West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio and Rhode Island, according to the Centers for Disease Control. All of those states expanded Medicaid.
But there’s little evidence Medicaid expansion is the reason why. Many researchers, for instance, have noted that the overdose death rates were higher to begin with in those states.
Richard Frank, a professor of Health Economics in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School sent PolitiFact Florida a research memo he co-wrote on the issue.
Data he compiled from the CDC showed that the states that expanded Medicaid were experiencing higher levels of deaths due to opioids than non-expansion since 2010.

"The opioid epidemic had already hit those states hardest before the ACA even passed and well before the expansions were implemented," the memo said.
Frank and his colleague also found another problem with the Medicaid theory. The memo said since 2013, nearly all the increases in opioid overdoses in the United States is due to heroin and synthetic heroin substitutes. 
In other words, it treats all drug overdoses the same. The data Gaetz cited from the CDC includes prescription and illicit drugs. Medicaid coverage does not provide access to illicit drugs.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that Medicaid expansion helps pay for opioid addiction treatment, said Brendan Saloner of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Medicaid expansion covers costs treatments like detoxification, outpatient treatment, and treatment for masked health conditions.
We rate this claim Mostly False.

Also, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl., is weighing in on the President's proposal to cut taxes. He's zeroing in on the child tax credit, where parents can get a break of a thousand dollars per child.

"The child tax credit, if we don't do it, there will be no tax relief for working families," Rubio said on WFLA on Oct. 15. "How much tax relief working families get under tax reform is entirely dependent on whether or not we put in place an increase to the child tax credit."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling on that claim:

Rubio’s team sought to back up his assertion with a press release that included two charts. Both charts relayed the same message: In order to help working families, a tax plan must increase the child tax credit and make the credit refundable.
So in Rubio’s mind, expanding — not just increasing  — the child tax credit is key in seeing working families prosper. The Trump-backed tax framework proposes increasing the credit from the current amount of $1,000 and raising the current income threshold at which the credit phases out.
Experts agreed that expanding the child tax credit is one of the central provisions that will shape the impact that middle-income households will experience under the framework.
It’s worth emphasizing that the details of the child tax credit are a work in progress. Right now, the plan does not specify how much the credit would increase or which incomes level would qualify. More broadly, little is known about the thresholds of new income tax brackets, which could greatly affect the distribution of benefits.
"From the sketchy details we have of the basic (framework), it’s pretty fair to say the child tax credit is key," said Edward McCaffrey, a tax law professor at the University of Southern California.
As a result, the credit has emerged as one of few options available to policymakers looking to change the tax burden on middle-income households.
We rate this claim Mostly True.


Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.