On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., applauded the Senate passage of bipartisan legislation to address the opioid crisis. The legislation, which passed by an overwhelming vote of 98-1, combines previously passed Senate and U.S. House measures authorizing and funding a broad range of tools to fight the opioid crisis.
H.R.6, the Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act, or SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act for short, would address the opioid crisis through prevention, treatment and recovery, support for caregivers and families, safety, medical research, and improved border security measures, in addition to tackling the crisis through the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
“This comprehensive opioid legislation is the culmination of months of hard work across committees and in both chambers of Congress, and it is only fitting that is it sent to the president’s desk to be signed in to law during the month of October, which is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month,” said Isakson. “The opioid epidemic has broken too many hearts and ended too many lives. I’m glad to see Congress move forward to help our states, medical community, first responders and so many who are involved in fighting this epidemic. I urge President Trump to sign this measure into law without delay.”
Isakson introduced or co-sponsored several provisions that are included in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act to address Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare patients are a particularly high-risk population. In 2016, one third of Medicare patients with a prescription drug plan had a prescription for an opioid. These Isakson-sponsored amendments will:
Add a screening for potential substance use disorders and a review of any current opioid prescriptions as part of the initial “Welcome to Medicare” exam and the annual wellness visit under the Medicare program.
Require Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to develop an overall action plan for Medicare and Medicaid to enhance the treatment and prevention of opioid addiction and the coverage and reimbursement of medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.
Require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary to support states seeking to provide housing-related support and services and care coordination services under Medicaid to beneficiaries with substance use disorders and issue a report detailing an action plan to do so within 180 days after enactment.
In addition, the final package also includes an amendment filed by Isakson earlier in the committee process requiring the secretary of Health and Human Services to review payments under the Medicare outpatient prospective payment system and remove any financial incentives for prescribers to use opioid treatments when there are evidence-based, non-opioid alternatives available. This measure was adopted as Section 6082 of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.