Opioid Legislation Advancing in Congress

Legislation | June 05, 2018 | by Barbara Gay

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has approved 57 separate bills incorporating a wide range of proposals to deal with the various aspects of the opioid crisis, the widespread misuse of addictive pain medications.

The measures include proposals to encourage development and use of non-opioid pain relief alternatives; to increase physician and public awareness of the dangers of opioid addiction and of alternative treatments; to facilitate the use of telehealth and electronic health records to track use of opioid prescription medication; and to encourage communication among Medicare and Medicaid agencies, providers, quality improvement organizations, and pharmacies on the use of these medications.

The next step for this legislation is consideration on the House floor. While this has not yet been scheduled, it could occur as early as this month.

On the Senate side, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that opioid legislation could be taken up while the Senate is in Washington in August, since the traditional recess has been cancelled.

LeadingAge understands the need to address the widespread abuse of these medications, which are a serious and growing public health threat. We welcome and support more research on effective alternatives to the use of opioids, to increased public awareness and knowledge of the dangers of the drugs and potential alternatives, and more effective communication among health care providers and payors on the use of the medications.

We have to be concerned that legislation will not have unintended consequences for long-term services and supports providers, whose residents and clients often have valid medical needs for opioid pain relief medication. Federal law requires nursing homes to ensure that residents are free from pain to the extent possible. We are carefully monitoring the development of legislation to ensure that residents whose pain cannot be effectively managed without opioids continue to have access to the medications they need.