U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today applauded the Senate passage of significant, comprehensive and 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, today’s 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.
Other provisions of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act will:
- Reduce use and supply of opioids, including the STOP Act to help stop illegal drugs such as dangerous Chinese-produced fentanyl at the U.S. border, as well as providing flexible grants for states to better share Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs data. These programs ensure addicts do not go “doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions at the same time.
- Encourage recovery by supporting states and Indian tribes in addressing substance use disorders, establishing comprehensive opioid recovery centers, expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, and improving community support, access to health professionals, tele-health services and long-distance care, and recovery housing services.
- Support caregivers and families by improving plans for safe care and support for substance-exposed babies and their mothers, promoting family-focused treatment and recovery, aiding youth with substance use disorders, and strengthening trauma-informed care and support in schools and early childhood education programs.
- Drive innovation and long-term solutions by advancing cutting-edge research to spur discovery and development of new non-addictive painkillers and speeding up approval pathways for these alternative treatment options to get them into the hands of patients sooner. It would also address the economic and workforce impacts of the opioid crisis, ensure parity in mental health and substance use disorder benefits, and improve pain management.
U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA) comments on final Senate passage of the Opioid Crisis Response Act, which now heads to President Trump’s desk to become law:
“Last year, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national Public Health Emergency. Since then, the Trump Administration has worked closely with Congress to ensure that local, state, and federal law enforcement have the tools they need to stop illegal drugs from flooding across our southern border. This bill will also prevent the escalation of opioid prescription fraud within Medicare. We’ve got to stop the spread of opioids through our communities in Georgia and across the country. It’s time to tackle this epidemic head on, and this bill gives states the necessary tools to see that mission through.”
A section-by-section summary of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act can be found online here.