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July 7, 2018

How is the New House Bill Addressing the Opioid Epidemic?


Approximately two million people in the country are addicted to prescription opioids such as fentanyl, oxycodone, Vicodin, and Percocet, making it imperative for those in power to find ways to decrease the prevalence of this kind of substance use disorder. With that in mind, politicians on both sides of the aisle have put in motion several different bills regarding today’s opioid crisis.

Right before July 4th, the House spent about two weeks combing through bills that address the ever-growing opioid epidemic in the United States. A complete package of bills is expected to be finished any day now, however many professionals and experts do not feel that the final product is really going to have any large-scale impact on the opioid crisis.

There are a handful of main points outlined in the new House bill, and they include the following:

Supporting Evidence-Based Treatment

Countless substance abuse treatment facilities provide evidence-based treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-Step facilitation therapy, and motivational enhancement therapy. And while these treatments are viewed as necessities to most, some treatment centers do not provide them. Through the new House bill, all treatment programs that receive funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) must only provide evidence-based treatment modalities. This will save some funding that can then be utilized to provide more addiction medications that can be used in medication-assisted therapy, as studies show that the combination of both medication and evidence-based treatments is the most effective form of addiction treatment.

Putting an End to the IMD Exclusion

The IMD (which stands for institutions for mental diseases) exclusion, is a restriction that makes it so those who participate in residential treatment settings with more than 16 beds are unable to receive reimbursements through Medicaid for their addiction treatment. The new House bill lifts this exclusion, making it possible for those in larger residential treatment obtain reimbursements for their care if on Medicaid. It appears as though this is a test run for the House, as they are only allowing the reversal of this law for the next five years.

Making Buprenorphine More Accessible

Prescribing professionals will receive the go ahead and prescribe up to 100 patients with buprenorphine once a waiver is obtained. Buprenorphine is a medication that is often used in medication-assisted treatment, as it helps those addicted to opioids and opiates detox without struggling with painful, dangerous withdrawal symptoms or severe cravings.

Less Prescribing of Opioids

The new bill will make it so it is impossible to prescribe opioids through Medicare if there are “misaligned financial incentives” behind doing so. It is believed that this will be a challenge for most prescribing professionals, as it is much less expensive to prescribe opioid-based medications than to prescribe more natural remedies or other equipment to treat an individual.

Privacy and Policy Changes

Through this bill, individuals with a past history of substance abuse will no longer be able to withhold that information from their healthcare providers, as it will be provided in their medical files without consent from the patient. Some believe that this part of the bill will help diminish rates of opioid addiction, while others believe that it might keep individuals from getting the help they need.

Overall, the many parts of this bill are solely designed to address prescription opioid abuse, however, it is unsure if that will be the outcome.

opioids on american flag

Is It Enough?

Is this bill going to be enough? Of course, no one knows that yet because it hasn’t been put into action. However, from a quick look at the bill, there not only seems to be similar ideas to those previously attempted, but also a lack of understanding about what those addicted to opioids need.

For years now, several bills have hit the house floor that has focused on ways to better control healthcare providers and their prescribing allowances. For example, prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) have been put in place in nearly every single state with the intention of preventing professionals from prescribing opioid-based substances to those who are already taking too many or who have a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, PDMPs have not been utilized as aggressively as previous thought, and some states don’t even use them at all, leading to countless inconsistencies and a truly flawed system. So, hearing discussion about a bill that will make it harder for providers to prescribe certain medications through Medicaid seems like backtracking.

Addiction can happen to anyone at any time, and truly for any reason. And, studies show that the best and most effective way to treat addiction is through a combination of medication and therapy, and preventing addiction often comes from providing educational materials to younger generations. So, when a new house bill gets passed around that does not focus on several ways to prevent and comprehensively treat addiction, it can be disheartening.

However, despite some perceived flaws, the bill does have some good points.

For example, making buprenorphine more accessible to providers so that patients can utilize them is excellent, as this medication (when properly controlled) can help individuals move leaps and bounds in their early recovery and provide them with the opportunity to live a better life. Having all SAMHSA funded programs providing nothing but evidence-based treatment makes it so lower funded treatment programs capable of providing the best care possible. It also helps flush out some therapeutic approaches that truly have no effect in the process of recovery.

What Should You Do if You are Addicted to Opioids?

If you are struggling with an opioid addiction, it can be entirely overwhelming and to the point where you finally make the decision to get help. And, when you are ready, you should reach out to a facility that either takes Medicare or your insurance if you are unable to pay for it on your own.

From there, you can discuss your treatment options with trained professionals who can guide you towards the right kind of care for your needs. Additionally, you can ask about evidence-based treatment and medication-assisted treatment, and inquire about how they might help you on a personal level.

When addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, it can be an extremely lonely existence. However, you do not need to keep abusing these dangerous substances. And while the House is still working on providing its new bill, you can move forward in your journey towards good health and happiness.

If you need help stopping your opioid addiction, do not let another day go by. Call us today to get started on the recovery that you deserve.