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Federal Opioid Packages Advance in Congressional Committees

April 26, 2018

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee and U.S. House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee approved legislative packages designed to take next steps at the federal level to address the opioid epidemic.

The HELP Committee unanimously approved a comprehensive package that incorporated 40 policy provisions championed by 38 different Senators. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R, TN) expects to receive input from other Senate Committees with jurisdiction over opioid policy matters, including the Senate Finance Committee, and hopes to present a final package for consideration by the full Senate this summer.

Key elements of S. 2680, the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 are intended to:

  • Improve research into substance use disorders, and promote medical innovations to offer new pain management therapies
  • Encourage responsible prescribing by promoting new packaging and disposal options
  • Enhance access to care, including support for the behavioral health workforce
  • Foster education and prevention activities
  • Better leverage data and technology, and promote information sharing
  • Augment drug enforcement tools
  • Target the response to particularly vulnerable groups, including mothers and infants

The Energy & Commerce Committee approved 57 individual bills, the vast majority of which passed without controversy. Action is expected by the full committee during the coming weeks, and Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R, OR) has indicated his hope for the House to pass opioids legislation by Memorial Day.

Policies of interest include:

  • Promoting the utilization of telehealth services to treat opioid use disorder, including by finalizing rules that clarify waivers that allow health care providers to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine in legitimate emergency situations
  • E-prescribing for controlled substances under the Medicare Part D program
  • Strengthening the ability of the Medicare and Medicaid programs to monitor at-risk beneficiaries; implement practices that improve prescribing practices; promote drug utilization review activities and enhance medication management
  • Requiring greater coordination in the use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs
  • reporting on how Graduate Medical Education (GME) funds are used to support physician training and train physicians on substance use disorder
  • Enhancing the use of Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) to treat Medicaid beneficiaries with substance use disorder
  • Requiring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop and disseminate best practices regarding the prominent display of substance use disorder history in patient records of patients who have previously provided this information to a provider
  • Enhancing the substance use disorder workforce
  • Developing improved options for drug packaging and disposal
  • Providing resources for hospitals to develop protocols on discharging patients who have presented with an opioid overdose
  • Promoting demonstration programs that provide incentives or establish alternative payment models to test alternative treatment options

The committees have acknowledged that many of the policies discussed within both chambers will have an associated cost. Neither package includes offsets to pay for the underlying policy.

Many of the elements and issues addressed in the emerging legislative packages represent steps forward in addressing the opioid epidemic. HAP continues to work with Pennsylvania hospitals to identify meaningful avenues to promote prevention and appropriately support needed care provided in inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities.

For information about HAP’s clinical work around the opioid crisis, contact Dr. Michael Consuelos, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration. For information about federal efforts, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s vice president, federal advocacy.

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