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Shelley Starkey

House Sends More Opioid Bills to the Senate

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The House of Representatives this week picked up where it left off in its efforts to advance legislation to address the opioid crisis. The latest House-passed bills will be combined with those that were passed last week to create a comprehensive package for the Senate to consider. Bills that advanced this week include some controversial measures to loosen the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) rule and 42 CFR Part 2, which governs the privacy of substance use treatment records. Other measures that passed relate to the expansion of parity protection, and prevention, treatment, and recovery for opioid use disorders.

Among the considered legislation were a few bills that the National Council has been following closely, including:

  • The IMD CARE Act (H.R. 5797): This bill, approved by a 261 to 155 vote, would lift what is known as the “IMD exclusion,” to provide Medicaid payments for in-patient opioid addiction treatment for individuals for up to 30 days in certain facilities. The National Council has long supported lifting the IMD exclusion, but the new bill’s exclusive focus on individuals with opioid addiction raises concerns about accessibility of services for individuals living with addiction to other substances. Moreover, a continued lack of investment in community-based care could hinder individuals’ progress toward recovery if they are unable to access timely, high-quality outpatient services upon leaving residential care. On the House floor, Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) explained that she opposed the bill as it does not invest enough into the full continuum of care needed to address the opioid epidemic. “If we’re going to be spending one billion additional dollars in the Medicaid program, we need to spend it wisely on expanding access to services,” she said, pointing to the wider-reaching effects of expanding community-based services through Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). “We need to be making investments in the full spectrum of the behavioral health system in order to truly address the root causes and the results of the opioid epidemic.”
  • The Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (H.R. 6082): Passed with bipartisan support, this bill would amend 42 CFR Part 2, a regulation that prohibits the sharing of substance use disorder treatment records between providers, to bring it more in line with how other medical records are shared. Advocates for the measure believe that it would enhance the coordination of patients’ care across settings, while critics fear it would discourage patients from seeking substance use disorder treatment for fear of facing discrimination or potential legal consequences.
  • The CHIP Mental Health Parity Act (H.R. 3192): This bill, passed by a voice vote, would require states to cover mental health and addiction treatment for pregnant women and children under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The measure ensures that the program covers behavioral health services at parity with physical health services.

As Congress continues its work on pushing back against the opioid crisis, keep yourself informed with key updates from Capitol Connector each week.