This Week on Capitol Hill: Opioids, Opioids, Opioids

On Wednesday, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing to discuss a draft legislative package the committee released last week. Both the hearing and the draft bill, the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, touched on a number of health IT topics, and HIMSS policy priorities, including interoperability and the use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and how to utilize and share data collected from PDMPs. There was also discussion around the role telehealth can play in the treatment and diagnosis of patients with substance abuse and mental health disorders. In addition, the draft bill includes a provision that builds on the success of the ECHO Act, legislation championed by HIMSS, to establish comprehensive opioid centers that utilize technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity building models. The HELP Committee intends to hold a markup of the bill on April 24, and then send it to the Senate floor for consideration.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee held a two-day hearing on “Combating the Opioid Crisis: Improving the Ability of Medicare and Medicaid to Provide Care for Patients.” The hearing examined 34 pieces of legislation to address the opioid crisis and touched upon similar topics as the HELP Committee, including the use of PDMPs and the role of telehealth. One telehealth bill in particular, the Access to Telehealth Services for Opioid Use Disorders Act, includes a provision, strongly supported by HIMSS, which would provide the HHS Secretary the authority to waive certain Medicare telehealth requirements to help with the treatment of an opioid use disorder or co-occurring mental health disorder. 

Also on Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee released a white paper detailing creative solutions to address the opioid crisis. Among the Health IT focused solutions outlined were requiring e-prior authorization and e-prescribing of opioids under Medicare Part D.
HIMSS continues to play an active role in providing technical assistance and policy guidance as Congress explores solutions to combat the opioid epidemic.