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Treatment groups, pharma fighting Gov. Cuomo’s opioid tax

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s push to tax opioid prescriptions is getting strong resistance from two distinct quarters: manufacturers and addiction-treatment advocates.

Advocates point out the governor’s budget doesn’t specifically channel all the money that would be raised from a charge of 2 cents per milligram into addiction services. Manufacturers say the charge eventually would be borne by patients and the state’s Medicaid program, despite Cuomo’s vow otherwise.

The factions are lobbying at the state Capitol to change or block the governor’s proposal as lawmakers are moving to finalize New York’s budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Advocates are “dismayed” that just 20 percent of the estimated $127 million generated by the tax would go to “prevention, treatment, recovery and harm reduction” programs, John Coppola, head of the New York Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers, told legislators earlier this month. The group would support the tax — if it goes into a dedicated “lock box” for treatment, it said.

At the same time, the pharmaceuticals industry is touting a survey that says the costs would result in higher insurance and medical costs. The hike also could fall on the state’s Medicaid program, which covers some patients on opioids.

“Most, if not all, of the cost of the proposed opioid tax will be borne by consumers and, as a result, the proposed law is likely to have a number of unintended consequences,” said Lewis Davis, a Union College economics professor, co-author of the study.

Cuomo and lawmakers are supposed to adopt a state budget by Sunday, which is the constitutional deadline for a spending plan. But their practical deadline is even shorter because they are trying to finish by Friday — the start of lawmakers’ Easter-Passover holiday break.

Cuomo has blamed the pharmaceutical companies for fueling the opioid crisis and says they should pick up more of the costs of addiction treatment. His budget director has said manufacturers would “eat” the added cost of the tax.

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