Higgins Announces Committee Action on Several Pieces of Legislation Addressing the Opioid Epidemic
The House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing to consider several bipartisan pieces of legislation aimed at combatting the opioid crisis in America. Congressman Brian Higgins, a member of the committee and its subcommittee on Health, recognized the good work many communities are doing to address issues related to opioid abuse, and the need for Congress to provide more tools and resources to those engaged in this battle.
To access video of Congressman Higgins testimony click above or go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jq2oeO4aJ2A&feature=youtu.be&t=1h53m10s
In committee testimony, Higgins said, “This is a crisis of huge proportion and our response must match it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 45,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses from July 2016 to July 2017. This staggering number surpassed the 38,000 Americans who died in the previous year.”
Higgins welcomed consideration of a bill he introduced, “The committee will consider my bipartisan bill with Congressman Jason Smith of Missouri: H.R. 5718, The Perioperative Reduction of Opioids Act, or PRO Act. Our bill will provide hospitals and prescribers with the information they need to make the best possible decisions for their patients regarding opioids. The bill will empanel a group of technical experts to provide recommendations on reducing opioid use in the surgical setting and on best practices for pain management following surgery. Why is this bill needed? Members of Congress are not doctors and we are not experts in opioid dosage best practices. But we know that new studies are increasingly showing that opioids are still overprescribed, including after surgeries.”
Higgins also noted the efforts of Western New York families whose lives have been touched by the opioid epidemic, “Avi and Julie Israel, local advocates in my district, have long noted how it is too common for patients to become addicted to opioid medications after a surgery. Their organization, called Save the Michaels of the World, was established after their son Michael tragically died due to complications related to an opioid addiction. This addiction was preventable and was onset due to treatment for a chronic disease – Crohn’s disease. While small in scope, our bill could give providers tools to help prevent the onset of addiction in cases like Michael’s.”
The Ways and Means Committee marked up a number of bills, including:
H.R. 5774: Combatting Opioid Abuse for Care in Hospitals (COACH) Act
- Included in this bill is the text of legislation (The PRO Act - H.R. 5718), led by Congressman Higgins and Rep. Jason Smith, which creates a technical expert panel to provide recommendations to reduce opioid use related to surgery.
- Develops a guidance on pain management and opioid use disorder prevention for Medicare-participating hospitals.
H.R. 5775: Providing Reliable Options for Patients and Educational Resources (PROPER) Act
- Requires Medicare Advantage and Part D plans to provide beneficiaries information on the risks associate with prolonged opioid use and the coverage of non-opioid medications and therapies.
H.R. 5776: Medicare and Opioid Safe Treatment (MOST) Act
- Expands Medicare coverage to include opioid treatment programs delivering Medication-Assisted Treatment and provides grants to Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics to help offset the cost of training related to opioid disorder treatment.
H.R. 5773: Preventing Addiction for Susceptible Seniors (PASS) Act
- Expands eligibility for medication therapy management programs under Part D and sets up systems to identify high-volume opioid prescribers.
H.R. 5676: Stop Excessive Narcotics in our Retirement (SENIOR) Communities Protection Act
- Under Medicare, allows for the suspension of payments to a pharmacy pending the investigation of credible allegations of fraud.
H.R. 5723: Expanding Oversight of Opioid Prescribing and Payment Act
- Requires a review of how Medicare reimburses pain management treatments, any incentives for overprescribing and how data is tracked.
This legislation will now move for consideration by the full House of Representatives.