Fortunately, the opioid epidemic has become a central point of debate in our state’s gubernatorial election. Addiction and overdose have hit Minnesota particularly hard, and our next governor will surely play a significant role in future efforts to stop this public health crisis. However, statements made by candidate Tim Walz highlight a misunderstanding on how to combat the crisis we face. I am referring to his support of an opioid surcharge, more commonly referred to in Minnesota as the “penny-per-pill” tax.
The logic behind the tax is shaky at best. Yes, a surcharge on opioid distribution could limit opioid prescriptions across the state, but not in a way that would effectively reduce addiction and overdoses. It could, instead, limit medications and increase health care costs for the thousands of patients across Minnesota with legitimate pain-management needs.
Debilitating pain is often a real side effect of very common chronic conditions, including arthritis, cancer, and kidney disease. Without prescription opioids, individuals managing these illnesses would not be able to effectively manage their pain — or live comfortable, productive lives.
We were fortunate to see the opioid tax fail last legislative session. But support clearly remains among current and prospective members of our state government. It is critical that Minnesotans come to recognize the harm that this kind of tax could do to our state’s chronic pain patients.
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