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U.S. House Builds Consensus to Advance Policy Addressing Opioid Epidemic

June 21, 2018

For a second straight week, legislative activity on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives centered on advancing policy to tackle the opioid crisis that is gripping communities across the nation, particularly in Pennsylvania.

The House passed more than 20 bills, including two bills that build general agreement on difficult policy issues that will help patients suffering from substance use disorders (SUD) receive the care they need. Significantly, a bipartisan majority of the House approved legislation to:

  • Modernize outdated policy that inhibits the responsible sharing of substance use disorder treatment records, while protecting patients suffering from addiction. H.R. 6082, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, will align the use of SUD treatment records with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The bill also enhances the penalties in the event of an unlawful disclosure of SUD treatment records, adds breach notification requirements, and provides strong discrimination prohibitions.
  • Provide for Medicaid payment to cover the cost of care for adult patients who need specialized inpatient treatment for drug misuse. H.R. 5797, the IMD CARE Act, will allow state Medicaid programs from fiscal year (FY) 2019 through FY 2023, to remove the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion for Medicaid beneficiaries aged 21–64 with an opioid use disorder, and provide coverage for individuals seeking treatment from cocaine and crack cocaine usage. Under the bill, Medicaid would pay for up to 30 total days of care in an IMD during a 12-month period.

In a statement of administration policy, the White House expressed support for H.R. 6082, H.R. 5797, and H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, which will serve as the legislative vehicle for many of the House bills. 

H.R. 6 combines a group of bipartisan bills that would, among other provisions, enhance screening for opioid use disorder, establish drug management programs for at-risk beneficiaries, and ensure coverage for vulnerable patients.

The House also passed more than two dozen opioid bills last week. Collectively, the bills passed this week and last week are intended to:

  • Strengthen prevention and public health efforts
  • Address coverage and payment issues in Medicare and Medicaid
  • Bolster enforcement efforts

The U.S. Senate is expected to advance legislation this summer. Three committees—Senate Finance, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and Senate Judiciary—already have produced legislative packages within their jurisdiction.

HAP believes many of the policies approved by the House and advancing in the Senate will offer resources, supports, and clarity that will help health care, social service, and law enforcement stakeholders respond to the opioid crisis.

For information about HAP’s clinical work around the opioid crisis, contact Michael Consuelos, MD, 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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