WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL), member of the House Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, issued the following statement after voting for H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 394 to 14.
“I was proud to vote for the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, a bipartisan compromise that will make meaningful strides in increasing access to treatment services through Medicaid, and crack down on the illegal importation of dangerous Chinese fentanyl,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “Though I am pleased with this legislation, the human cost of addiction is simply too great for us not to take additional steps to address this crisis. We must continue conversations with those on the front lines of this epidemic to ensure we’re getting to the root of the issue and as a result, can better provide the support and resources that are most needed. That means providing our law enforcement officers with the tools they need to combat drug trafficking, fully supporting drug treatment and mental health services to address the drivers of addiction. We also have to work to ensure we’re fostering an economic environment that creates opportunity for all people, as well as reforming our criminal justice system so a drug conviction is not a life sentence in earning a good paying job. We’ve got more work to do, but I’m encouraged by what we’ve accomplished on the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, and I look forward to continuing this work with my colleagues.”
Congresswoman Blunt Rochester is a member of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force and a cosponsor of a bipartisan package of legislation aimed to stymie this crisis. The legislative package includes initiatives that would expand access under Medicaid for addiction treatment services, arm U.S. Customs and Border Protection with new tools to combat drug trafficking, give families the flexibility to use their Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) or Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) for addiction treatment, and establish pediatric care centers within Medicaid for the treatment of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) from opioid exposure during pregnancy.
H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, includes provisions that:
- Expand Medicare coverage of Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) and Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT). Currently, OTPs are not recognized as Medicare providers, meaning that beneficiaries receiving MAT at OTPs for their opioid use disorders must pay out-of-pocket. In 13 states, the highest rate of opioid-related inpatient stays is among Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 65. Under H.R. 6, Medicare will pay OTPs through bundled payments made for holistic services, including necessary medications, counseling, and testing.
- Mandate Medicaid coverage of all forms of Medication-Assisted Treatment. Currently, while all state Medicaid programs cover Buprenorphine and Naltrexone, 14 state Medicaid programs still do not cover Methadone. Under H.R. 6, all state Medicaid programs will be required to cover all forms of MAT for five years.
- Permanently allow nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to prescribe or dispense buprenorphine for treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD). H.R. 6 builds upon the past Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act which allowed NPs and Pas to treat up to 100 patients with buprenorphine for five years. This bill would make NP and PA prescribing authority under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA Act 2000) permanent.
- Expand the type of providers who can treat patients with buprenorphine for OUD. Currently, only physicians, NPs, and Pas can treat patients with OUD with buprenorphine. H.R. 6 would expand access to MAT by authorizing clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists to treat up to 100 patients with OUD with buprenorphine for five years.
- Expand access to MAT by increasing the number of patients with OUD certain providers can treat with buprenorphine in the first year. Currently, providers with DATA 2000 waivers can treat up to 30 patients in their first year. H.R. 6 would allow certain providers to immediately start treating 100 patients at a time with buprenorphine (skilling the initial 30 patient cap) if the physician has board certification in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry or if the practitioner provides MAT in a qualified practice setting.
- Provide consistent Medicaid coverage for at-risk youth. H.R. 6 requires state Medicaid programs to suspend, as opposed to terminate, a juvenile’s medical assistance eligibility when a juvenile is incarcerated. A state must restore coverage upon release without requiring a new application unless the individual no longer meets the eligibility requirements for medical assistance.
- Expand Medicaid coverage for foster youth until the age of 26. H.R. 6 requires states to ensure that former foster youth are able to keep their Medicaid coverage across state lines until the age of 26.