House Subcommittee Approves 56 Opioid Bills
On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee approved 56 of the 63 opioid bills pending before the Committee in a largely bipartisan fashion. The wide-ranging package of opioid bills includes many National Council priorities such as expanding access to substance abuse treatment through telemedicine, building up the addiction treatment workforce and encouraging quality standards for recovery housing. This week’s Subcommittee vote keeps the full Committee on track to advance legislation to the House floor no later than Memorial Day.
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Opioid Crisis Response Package Moves Forward in Senate
On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously voted to approve the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, a large, bipartisan package of potential solutions to the ongoing crisis. The bill (S. 2680), introduced by Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), would next have to be approved by the full Senate before heading to the House for additional consideration and debate.
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Opioid Legislation Takes Center Stage in House and Senate
This week, both chambers of Congress spent time negotiating legislation to combat the opioid crisis. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee held a second hearing on the draft Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. Simultaneously, the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee held its final opioid-focused hearing to review 30-plus bills focused on opioid-related coverage and payment issues in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Committee leaders Chairman Walden (R-OR) and Chairman Alexander (R-TN) appear to want to move quickly, aiming for floor votes by the summer.
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Senate Releases Draft of Opioid Crisis Package
On Wednesday, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee leadership released a large package of legislation related to the opioid crisis aimed at strengthening addiction treatment access, developing non-opioid pain medications and creating new programs to curb the crisis. This package, called the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, builds on the series of hearings the Committee has convened since October 2017. It also comes on the heels of opioid response strategies released by the White House and the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. Both the House and the Senate aim to markup their respective bipartisan legislative packages before summer.
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HHS Secretary Appoints New Senior Advisor for Opioid Policy
On March 29th, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced the reassignment of Dr. Brett Giroir to serve as senior opioid advisor at HHS. Dr. Giroir, who previously served as HHS Assistant Secretary for Health, will now oversee the department’s opioid-related policies. Giroir is a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which supports national improvement of behavioral health.
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House Subcommittee Assesses New Opioid Legislation
Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held its second in a series of three hearings to discuss legislative solutions to address the ongoing opioid crisis. The hearing, entitled “Combating the Opioid Crisis: Prevention and Public Health Solutions,” took place over two days, covered 25 bills, and consisted of four panels of witnesses including: federal agency heads, individuals in recovery and opioid treatment experts. The hearing demonstrates lawmakers continued interest in taking additional steps this year to address the opioid crisis — beyond the provisions included in the 2018 omnibus spending bill.
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President Trump Announces Opioid Crisis Response Plan
On Monday, President Trump unveiled his plan to put a stop to the opioid epidemic that claims thousands of American lives every year. The President’s plan addresses multiple contributing factors including: reducing over-prescribing of opioid pain killers, cutting off illicit drug supplies, improving access to evidence-based treatment and recovery services, and ramping up prevention efforts. It is unclear whether Congress will appropriate funding for these initiatives, as both chambers are currently considering their own strategies.
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Senators Advocate for Funding to Combat Opioid Overdose Among American Indian Population
Federal and state officials testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last week to discuss solutions to combat the high prevalence of opioid use and overdose among American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN). The panelists shared the latest statistics for opioid use and overdose among this population and advocated for additional funding for key government programs that expand treatment and recovery services.
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Trump Announces More Action on Opioids at Summit
Last Thursday, the White House held an Opioid Summit to discuss the Administration’s strategy for tackling the ongoing opioid crisis, which claimed more than 42,000 American lives and accounted for roughly two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in 2016. During his remarks, President Trump said, “The Administration is going to be rolling out policy over the next three weeks, and it will be very, very strong.” There was limited discussion of specific proposals, but it is expected the White House may bolster law enforcement agencies to carry out opioid-related activities.
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House Committee Holds Hearing on Opioid Epidemic Response
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee convened a hearing on potential solutions to address the opioid epidemic on Wednesday. The hearing featured testimony from National Council member, Richard Nance, who presented recommendations for improving access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT), the gold standard of opioid addiction treatment, via telemedicine. The hearing was the first of three hearings devoted to crafting a broad legislative package to curb the use of prescription and illicit opioids.
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Eight Opioid Bills and CARA 2.0 Slated for Consideration in Congress
In the midst of an ongoing epidemic of prescription and illicit opioid addiction, which largely drove the more than 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016, Congress is eagerly seeking solutions. Both the House and the Senate introduced a flurry of bills aimed at combating the opioid epidemic from many angles. The Senate is working on follow-up legislation to the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), while the House is considering a package of eight opioid-focused bills.
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Trump Releases Budget Proposal, Seeks Medicaid Cuts and Opioid Funding
On Monday, President Trump unveiled his Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request — detailing his Administration’s legislative and regulatory priorities for next year. The document revives last year’s failed attempts to block grant Medicaid, boosts spending to combat opioid addiction, and outlines other major health care priorities. As with most presidential budgets, this proposal stands little chance of being enacted into law as written. Instead, the President’s budget proposal will act more as a messaging tool to Congress, which just passed a major budget deal boosting defense and non-defense discretionary spending limits last week.
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Senate Strikes Budget Deal with Opioid, Health Care Funding
This week, Senate leaders released a major bipartisan budget deal to lift the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending. The deal is accompanied by a short-term spending package for the purposes of preventing a government shutdown and giving lawmakers time to draft specific appropriations bills. The deal sets federal spending for the next two years, boosting both defense and non-defense spending by a combined $300 billion. Importantly, the deal also provides $6 billion in funding to battle opioid addiction, a four-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and renewal of community health center funding and Medicare extenders.
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CMS Proposes Medicare Changes to Address Opioids
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have released its proposed changes to Medicare Advantage and Part D plans for 2019, which include a few provisions to combat the opioid crisis. These changes come in reaction to the soaring opioid prescription and substance use disorder rates among Medicare beneficiaries. CMS is accepting public comments through March 5, and will publish its final rule on April 2.
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Trump Talks ACA, Drug Prices and Opioids During SOTU
Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump used his first State of the Union address to tout repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, reiterate his promise to reduce prescription drug prices and vow to address the opioid epidemic with an enhanced focus on criminal justice. Although the speech lacked health care specifics, the address did serve to highlight President Trump’s most pressing health care priorities heading into his second year as Commander-In-Chief.
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ONDCP Could See 95% Budget Cut
The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) faces a second threat of losing 95 percent of its budget under President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 proposal, according to Politico. Defunding ONDCP would directly contradict the Administration’s declaration of the opioid crisis as a public health emergency, as the office is responsible for coordinating the federal response to the crisis. The National Council opposes this proposal, and will continue to work to ensure proper funding for this important office.
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Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on Opioid Crisis
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) hosted a hearing titled “The Opioid Crisis: An Examination of How We Got Here and How We Move Forward.” Discussion amongst committee members and the single witness centered heavily on supporting community-based solutions to quell the opioid epidemic beginning at the local level.
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HHS Nominee Appears Before Senate Finance Committee
The Senate Finance Committee held a confirmation hearing on Monday on the nomination of Alex Azar as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). This is the second hearing on his nomination Mr. Azar has participated in. In late 2017, he appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The Finance Committee will vote on his nomination in the coming weeks.
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Opioid Use among Teens at Historic Low with Vaping and Marijuana on the Rise
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey results highlighting historic lows of cigarette, heroin and methamphetamine use and increases in vaping and marijuana use among adolescents. The study surveyed over 47,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade in both public and private schools nationwide on their substance use and attitudes towards particular drugs.
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Capitol Hill Hearings Examine Patient Brokering, Addiction in Appalachia, and Cures Act
Congress hosted an assortment of hearings this week related to mental health and addiction. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee heard from SAMHSA Assistant Secretary Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz on the ongoing implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act as it pertains to mental health programs, and two separate House subcommittees examined aspects of the opioid epidemic, specifically the rise of patient brokering and opioid addiction in Appalachia.
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