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Casino industry to Congress: Uphold gambling disorders

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The casino industry asked Congress on Tuesday to retain gambling disorders as a serious public health matter in any changes it makes to President Obama's signature health care law.

Industry representatives in a letter urged congressional leaders and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to recognize gambling disorders as an issue that merits inclusion in any replacement to the Affordable Care Act.

The letter came a day after House Republicans released their long-awaited plan to unravel the law.

"Today, gambling disorders are recognized under the ACA's essential health benefits," the representatives wrote. "We believe this recognition, which did not exist prior to the passage of ACA, is critical not only to enable adequate funding for research, but also to ensure necessary resources and treatment facilities are available."

The letter was signed by the leaders of the American Gaming Association — the U.S. casino industry's main lobbying group — National Indian Gaming Association, National Council on Problem Gambling and Association of Gaming Equipment Manufactures.

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, established 10 categories of essential health benefits, which include mental health and substance use disorder services. The American Psychiatric Association's in 2013 updated its key reference book for mental health professionals, replacing as an addiction what was previously called pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder.

Problem gambling now takes its place among substance-related and addictive disorders.

The plan released by House Republicans would scale back the government's role in helping people afford coverage and could leave more Americans uninsured.

The plan would repeal the statute's unpopular fines on people who don't carry health insurance. It would replace income-based subsidies provided to help millions of Americans pay premiums with age-based tax credits that may be skimpier for people with low incomes. Those payments would phase out for higher-earning people.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat whose district includes the Las Vegas Strip, strongly criticized the Republicans' proposed plan.

"I oppose the Republicans' disastrous health care plan and will fight any effort to roll back or eliminate coverage for behavioral health, mental health, preventive care, women's health, and other programs that insurance companies must now cover thanks to the ACA," she said.

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