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Congress Passes Bipartisan Opioid Legislation

Tuesday, October 30, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Diane Berg
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On October 3, the Senate overwhelmingly passed (99-1) bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid crisis after months of work by 8 committees in the House and 5 committees in the Senate. The final agreement represents one of Congress’s most significant legislative achievements of the year, a rare bipartisan response to a public health crisis that resulted in 72,000 drug-overdose deaths last year. President Trump has announced that he plans to sign the bill into law.

hat’s in the bill:

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act(H.R.6) includes provisions that touch almost every aspect of the opioid epidemic, from efforts to improve substance use disorder prevention and treatment programs to a mandate on the U.S. Postal Service to screen packages for fentanyl shipped from overseas.

The AAOS was pleased to see that the final agreement includes the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act (H.R.3528), which will require prescriptions for controlled substances covered under Medicare Part D to be transmitted electronically, beginning January 1, 2021. The AAOS supported this legislation and strongly believes that electronic prescribing promotes patient safety and will also provide data in a format that can provide better surveillance of excessive, inappropriate, and non-therapeutic prescribing.

The AAOS was also pleased that the final bill authorizes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grants to states and localities to improve their Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs), collect public health data, implement other evidence-based prevention strategies, encourage data sharing between states, and support other prevention and research activities. The AAOS supports increased use and interoperability of PDMPs and believes they can help providers make the best clinical decisions for their patients, by providing up-to-date and accurate prescription information.

Other significant provisions in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act will expand the use of telehealth services, reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy, provide funding to encourage research and development of new non-addictive painkillers and non-opioid drugs and treatments. Additionally, it requires several agencies and departments to report to Congress, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the impact of federal and state laws and regulations that limit the length, quantity, or dosage of opioid prescriptions.

What’s not in the bill

While this 250-page piece of legislation certainly includes many varied provisions to help combat the opioid epidemic, there were also plenty of proposals that did not make it into the final agreement. As the draft was moving through the committee process, some proposals were watered down or eliminated entirely, and other sections were eliminated during the final House and Senate conference agreement.

The AAOS was extremely pleased that strict limits on prescriptions for controlled substances were not included in the final bill. 

The MONITOR Act (H.R.4236) was also not included in the final bill. AAOS supported this legislation, which would establish minimum standards that PDMPs must meet in order to receive funding from the Account for State Response to the Opioid Crisis. Similarly, 42 CFR Part 2 was not included in the final package. This provision was controversial from the beginning, and leadership decided to eliminate it instead of risk a party-line vote on the larger package. 

What’s next for opioid policy?

While there is no definite timeline for next steps, policy makers will continue to keep an eye on the opioid epidemic long-after the bill is signed into law. First and foremost, lawmakers will want to know how the provisions in H.R. 6 are affecting the community. Depending on the success of these efforts and the information gathered from agency reports, Congress will almost certainly revisit some of the more controversial and heavy-handed provisions that were not included in the first package. Additionally, with the election in November, new congressional members will likely bring new ideas and proposals to introduce and will want a hand in crafting the next opioid-response bill. 

Read the full bill here.


Source: AAOS Advocacy Now

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