On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held its first of two hearings to consider a large package of legislation aimed at addressing the opioid crisis. The full Committee approved 25 of the 56 bills that had advanced from the Health Subcommittee, and is slated to review the remaining legislation next week with the hopes of advancing a comprehensive package to the House floor by Memorial Day. Bills that advanced this week included efforts to expand: telemedicine prescribing for medication-assisted treatment, student loan forgiveness for addiction treatment professionals and use of electronic health records by behavioral health providers.
All of the bills advanced with bipartisan support, and included many National Council priorities, such as:
- The Special Registration for Telemedicine Clarification Act (H.R. 5483): This bill would require the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to establish a special registration process for certain providers that wish to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine. This would remove barriers to accessing medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders, and is a direct result of National Council advocacy efforts. A similar bill, the Improving Access to Remote Behavioral Health Treatment Act (H.R. 5594) will likely be considered during next week’s Committee markup.
- The Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act (H.R. 5102): This bill would create a program to help addiction treatment professionals repay student loans, adding incentives for students to pursue these professions, and ultimately increasing timely access to treatment for individuals living with addiction. This legislation was introduced as a result of education and advocacy by the National Council and the Association for Behavioral Health in Massachusetts.
- Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (H.R. 3331): A National Council Hill Day 2018 ask, this bill would task the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) with creating a demonstration project to incentivize the use of EHR technologies that improve the coordination of care and behavioral health integration into physical health settings. A companion bill passed the Senate earlier this week. During the discussion, an amendment was passed to add psychiatric nurse practitioners to the list of eligible providers that would qualify for the demonstration.
More details on the hearing, including full text of the bills considered, can be found on the E&C Committee’s website here. Stay tuned to Capitol Connector for ongoing updates as the opioid package advances through Congress.