The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), approved multiple bills this week to combat the opioid crisis. These important measures will now advance to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
Over 60 percent of drug overdoses involve an opioid. Overdose deaths from opioids, including prescription opioids, have increased fivefold since 1999. More than 42 million Americans receive prescriptions through the Medicare program, and Congress has a duty to ensure these patients don’t fall victim to the opioid crisis.
As Chairman Brady said:
“I want to thank all the Members on both sides of the aisle who crafted this legislation. …our work doesn’t end here. We know there is still a long way to go, and I look forward to working together to move these important proposals to the House floor in the weeks ahead.”
The following bills were advanced by the Committee:
H.R. 5774, “Combatting Opioid Abuse for Care in Hospitals (COACH) Act,” authored by Ways and Means Members Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA). The COACH Act focuses on preventing opioid overuse by improving education for providers and patients. The legislation aims to expand evidence-based, high-quality health care options to reduce reliance on opioids for pain management.
Rep. Curbelo said:
“I’m proud that we’ve been able to come together in such a bipartisan way. … This is an issue that affects each of our districts, each of our communities. We need solutions that can help prevent opioid abuse as well as get people on the path to treatment and recovery.”
H.R. 5775, “Providing Reliable Options for Patients and Educational Resources (PROPER) Act,” authored by Ways and Means Members Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI). The PROPER Act takes steps to increase educational resources for those on Medicare. These resources will ensure that patients are aware of the adverse effects of prolonged opioid use and their coverage options for treatments of pain. The bill also improves the pain-related questions from patient satisfaction surveys.
Rep. Paulsen noted that the bill takes important steps to help people find alternative, less addictive treatments:
“As we’ve seen in the opioid epidemic getting worse and worse…we now know that the fact is that many providers and people simply aren’t aware of other equally effective therapies. … This package has strong, bipartisan support…in helping make a difference in addressing an epidemic that continues unfortunately to bring tragedy to too many families.”
H.R. 5776, “Medicare and Opioid Safe Treatment (MOST) Act,” authored by Ways and Means Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA) and Rep. George Holding (R-NC). The MOST Act focuses on increasing treatment coverage in Medicare for individuals suffering from opioid use disorder. Currently, Medicare covers substance use treatment when it is “medically necessary” and provided at a Medicare-certified inpatient or outpatient treatment center. Still, there are significant gaps in access to treatment and services for some patients who are at risk for or suffering from opioid use disorder. The MOST Act attempts to fill some of these coverage gaps.
Rep. Holding said:
“We’re all too familiar with the devastating effects the opioids epidemic is having on our country. … This epidemic has pervaded all populations, including our seniors. Medicare beneficiaries have among the highest and fastest growing rate of opioid use, yet they currently do not have coverage for the most effective treatment. The MOST Act…would change that.”
H.R. 5773, “Preventing Addiction for Susceptible Seniors (PASS) Act,” authored by House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL). The PASS Act aims to prevent opioid overuse by increasing program integrity efforts and resources for beneficiaries to help ensure that they are properly adhering to their prescribed pain medications.
Chairman Roskam said:
“We as a culture really are struggling with how we navigate through pain…and I think we put a tremendous amount of pressure on health care providers to make pain go away. We’re coming to terms with that but it’s been a hard, hard journey. … The Pass Act…will aim to prevent this overuse.”
H.R. 5676, “Stop Excessive Narcotics in our Retirement (SENIOR) Communities Protection Act,” co-sponsored by Ways and Means Members Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) and Rep. Earl Blumeneaur (D-OR). The SENIOR Communities Protection Act extends the authority of Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans to suspend potentially fraudulent payments — in the same manner already available under Medicare fee-for-service today.
Rep. Schweikert said:
“This is a way to find the bad actors and effectively remove them from the system.”
H.R. 5723, “Expanding Oversight of Opioid Prescribing and Payment Act,” co-sponsored by Ways and Means Committee Member Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA). This bill requires that by March 15, 2019 the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) report to Congress on: Medicare payment for pain management treatment options in a hospital setting; incentives under Medicare hospital payment for prescribing opioids relative to non-opioid alternatives; and tracking and monitoring of opioid use through Medicare claims. The bill also allows MedPAC to make recommendations to address these concerns.
H.R. 5788, “Securing the International Mail Against Opioids Act of 2018,” authored by Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). This legislation imposes new requirements on the Postal Service and Customs and Border Protection to address the opioid crisis by securing the international mail – which is often a means for smuggling dangerous synthetic opioids like fentanyl into the U.S.
Rep. Bishop said:
“As drafted, I think this legislation is a first good step in the right direction, but I also look forward to working with my colleagues to further strengthen this bill. The bottom line is that we have to stop the flow of synthetic drugs, including opioids, coming from other countries into our country.”
The Committee looks forward to continuing its work as these bills move to the House floor.