On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on “Combating an Epidemic: Legislation to Help Patients with Substance Use Disorders.” The Subcommittee heard from panelists including officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as professionals from various health providers and national advocacy organizations. The hearing also included discussion of a slate of 14 bills covering a broad range of approaches to address the addiction crisis in America.
Subcommittee members from both sides of the aisle expressed frustration over delayed implementation of several SUPPORT Act provision. Among provisions that have yet to be implemented are a new special registration process that the DEA was charged with creating to allow providers to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine. The DEA missed its October 2019 deadline, and leadership from the agency that was questioned during the briefing did not provide any specific updates on when the new process would be in place.
The hearing featured a number of bills that the National Council supports, including the following, all led by Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY):
- The Medicaid Reentry Act (H.R. 1329): Featured as a policy ask at the National Council’s Hill Day 2019, this bipartisan bill would allow states to restart Medicaid coverage for eligible incarcerated individuals up to 30 days before their release from jail or prison. This is an important step toward improving access to much-needed mental health and substance use services for one of the most vulnerable populations in the country.
- The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (H.R. 2482): The bipartisan bill, endorsed by the National Council, would expand access to medication-assisted treatment, the “gold standard” of addiction treatment when prescribed in conjunction with regular counseling. The MAT Act removes burdensome waiver requirements for health care providers to prescribe buprenorphine.
- The Medication Access and Training Expansion Act (H.R. 4974): The bipartisan bill, endorsed by the National Council, would require all DEA controlled substance prescribers to receive one-time training on treating and managing patients with substance use disorder, unless a prescriber is otherwise qualified. This and the MAT Act both ensure increased access to high-quality addiction treatment.
During the hearing, Representative Tonko said, “One of my top priorities in this epidemic has been to move to a system of treatment on demand for the disease of addiction, ensuring that when an individual has that moment of clarity and is ready to seek help that we have a medical system ready to meet the need.” Watch the full hearing, read witness testimony, and find text of the bills that were discussed by clicking here.