Senate passes massive opioid package, bill to ban gag clauses

The Senate approved a massive package of measures (PDF) Monday evening aimed at responding to the opioid crisis, as well as legislation to bar the use of so-called gag clauses in contracts between pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers.

As the Washington Examiner reported, a major difference that will need to be addressed is that the House version includes a bill to partially repeal a rule that prohibited Medicaid reimbursements to psychiatric facilities that devoted more than 16 beds to patients with severe mental illness.

Before the package was passed, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, who is chairman of the health committee, spoke in support of it. He held up a copy of the newspaper The Tennessean, which he said he grabbed Monday morning before flying from Nashville to Washington, D.C., and pointed to news of the Senate's opioid package making the front page.

The opioid crisis is making headlines at newspapers in cities across the nation, Alexander said. "Opioids are our most serious public health epidemic."