Senate Passes Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018

September 17, 2018

Today, the Senate passed their amended version of H.R. 6, the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. The amended version incorporates dozens of bills and represents months of work aimed at combating the greatest public health crisis of our generation.

Although there is no single strategy to address the crisis, breaking down barriers to evidence-based treatment – including recovery medication and other supports – should be the highest priority to make long-term recovery a reality for those affected by opioid use disorder.

We were pleased to see that the Senate’s opioid package incorporated many of AOR’s policy recommendations that support our goals of eliminating the bias against people living with addiction, expanding treatment capacity, enforcing insurance parity laws, and expanding evidence-based treatment within the criminal justice system.

We especially applaud the Senate for including the following provisions in its final bill:

  • Expanding Medicare coverage for opioid treatment programs; although we call on the conference committee to adopt the House-passed language which makes the coverage expansion permanent.
  • Codify rules enabling physicians to provide medication-assisted treatment to more patients.
  • Requiring the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to issue final regulations for registering telemedicine providers to prescribe controlled substances within one year of enactment.
  • Allowing the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to waive Medicare requirements for telehealth coverage when treating a substance use disorder.
  • Reporting on federal investigations of health plans that violate requirements to provide equal coverage of mental health and substance use disorders.
  • Directing the Labor Department to carry out a pilot program to address the economic and workforce effects of substance use disorders. 
  • Providing grants to nonprofit groups to provide technical assistance to drug courts.
  • Supporting recovery centers that provide the full continuum of evidence-based treatment services.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act is now headed to conference committee. We call on the committee conferees to remain focused on the expansion and implementation of evidence-based treatments.

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