Congress Moves Opioid Legislation, HIMSS Weighs In on Key Priorities


Last Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on “Tackling Opioid and Substance Use Disorders in Medicare, Medicaid, and Human Services Programs.” The hearing featured a witness from CMS and the Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS. During the hearing Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced a letter of support for the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act (S. 2460) that HIMSS is a signatory on, along with 19 other organizations. The Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act would require e-prescribing for coverage under Medicare part D for prescription drugs that are controlled substances.

On Tuesday, the Senate HELP Committee voted unanimously to advance the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (S. 2680). The bill combines a number of provisions and ideas from HELP committee members, federal agencies, governors and various technical experts. The bill focuses on work by numerous federal departments and agencies, including NIH, FDA, SAMHSA, CDC, and DEA and  calls for greater use of PDMPs, incentivizes the sharing of data collected from PDMPs, and seeks to promote PDMP interoperability with other health IT systems.

Additionally, the bill seeks to allow qualified providers and community addiction treatment and mental health facilities to prescribe and administer controlled substances in via telemedicine and includes a provision that builds on the success of the ECHO Act, legislation endorsed by HIMSS, to establish comprehensive opioid centers that utilize technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity building models for treatment and recovery services.

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a markup on a number of bills designed to combat the opioid crisis and voted to advance 56 bills to the full committee for consideration. Among the many bills voted on and discussed were several that HIMSS has endorsed including the Access to Telehealth Services for Opioid Use Disorders Act (H.R. 5603), which would provide the HHS Secretary the authority to waive Medicare telehealth requirements to help with the treatment of an opioid use disorder or co-occurring mental health disorder. During the hearing, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced a letter of support from HIMSS and PCHAlliance into the record and thanked both organizations for supporting the legislation.

HIMSS also endorsed two other pieces of legislation that were approved by the subcommittee.  HIMSS joined 19 other organizations on a letter of support for the Standardizing Electronic Prior Authorization for Safe Prescribing Act (H.R. 4841), which would provide for electronic prior authorization under Medicare part D. Additionally, the House companion of the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act (H.R. 3528) was advanced out of the subcommittee, and like the Senate version, would require e-prescribing for coverage under Medicare part D for prescription drugs that are controlled substances.

HIMSS continues to play an active role in providing technical assistance and policy guidance as Congress explores solutions to combat the opioid crisis.