House panel approves demonstration programs, telehealth provisions in opioid package

A House Committee has recently approved dozens of bills to combat the opioid crisis, with many focusing on federal healthcare programs. 

In a markup session last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved 32 bills to help lessen opioid use and improve treatment for substance abusers. Some of the approved legislation includes demonstration programs and improved telehealth access for treatment. 

Here are just some of the payer-related bills that the committee approved:

  • H.R. 1925 would require state Medicaid programs to restore medical assistance eligibility to juveniles after their release from incarceration.
  • H.R. 5477 would require the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement a demonstration project to provide an enhanced federal matching rate to 10 states for Medicare costs related to the expansion of substance abuse treatment.
  • H.R. 5603 would instruct the CMS to remove geographic barriers to telehealth services provided to treat substance use disorder.
  • H.R. 5605 would create a Medicare demonstration project for treating substance abuse disorder with a focus on quality and outcomes.
  • H.R. 5801 would require state Medicaid programs to integrate prescription drug monitoring program usage into providers' clinical workflow. 

The committee also approved 25 bills the week prior, including:

  • H.R. 5775 would require Medicare Advantage and Part D plans to provide certain enrollees with information on the adverse effects of opioid misuse and coverage of alternative pain medications.
  • H.R. 5774 would require HHS Secretary Alex Azar to develop guidance on pain management and opioid use disorder prevention strategies for beneficiaries under Medicare Part A.
  • H.R. 5773 would standardize electronic prior authorization for Part D drugs and require plan sponsors to establish drug management programs for at-risk beneficiaries.

Medicare has already been targeted by Congress in opioid crisis discussions. 

Leaders of the influential House Ways and Means Committee released a white paper in April outlining feedback from payers, providers and pharmacists about the best approaches to combating the opioid epidemic, with many respondents laying some blame on Medicare's current reimbursement structure as a driver of opioid overprescribing.

The administrative branch has also set its eyes on Medicare, with new limits on opioid prescriptions starting next year.