House passes important opioid bills

The US House of Representatives passed  H.R. 6, to address the Opioid Epidemic, combining more than 50 bills approved individually by the House focusing on expanding access to treatment, encouraging the development of alternative pain treatments and curbing the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S. The legislation also creates a loan forgiveness program for addiction care providers in rural areas. It was passed 396-14, with 13 Republicans and one Democrat voting against the package.

The package included two bills related to opioid abuse treatment. H.R. 5797 that would permit Medicaid to pay for opioid dependence treatment in institutions for mental disease (IMD), which is a hospital with more than 16 beds that primarily provides behavioral health treatment. The bill, which was amended to also include treatment of cocaine and crack cocaine dependence, would allow patients ages 21-65 to receive as much as 30 days of inpatient treatment during a 12-month period.

Another bill which was passed, H.R. 6082, will align medical record confidentiality standards for substance abuse treatment with those of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). The House will be finishing up its deliberations on Opioid treatment, prevention and related initiatives in the next few days. The Senate has not taken final action on its compendium of legislative initiatives. After the Senate and House take final action, the  bill(s) will go to a Conference committee. Congress has expressed a desire to complete action by the end-of-the summer and/or before the November elections.