Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Ryan Costello (R-Penn.) and Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) May 15 introduced the Opioid Workforce Act of 2018 (H.R. 5818, S. 2843), legislation that increases by 1,000 the number of Medicare supported residency positions available to teaching hospitals that have or are in the process of establishing approved residency programs in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, or pain management.
AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, issued a statement in support of the legislation saying, “The addition of these targeted slots would increase the ability of these institutions to train more physicians who are specialized to treat patients with substance use disorders and chronic pain. This important legislation would strengthen the health care workforce serving on the front lines of the nation’s opioid epidemic, and we urge Congress to include it in any final package to combat the opioid crisis.”
Sen. Nelson also issued a press release on the legislation, stating, “Too many Floridians don’t have access to critical treatments for opioid addiction…[w]e need to make sure we have the doctors and resources necessary to help fight this public health crisis.”
In terms of distributing the new residency slots, the legislation sets aside 500 slots for hospitals with established programs in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, or pain management, and sets aside 500 slots for hospitals that are in the process of establishing a program in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, or pain management. Hospitals may also receive slots for the associated number of residents training in a pre-requisite program, such as internal medicine, necessary for the number of full-time residents that will ultimately train in the addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, and/or pain management program. Hospitals are capped at 25 slots, but a hospital may apply for slots under both the new and existing categories (i.e., a hospital with an established pain management program that is also in the process of establishing an addiction psychiatry program may apply for slots under both the new and existing buckets).
The AAMC submitted a letter of support for the legislation to all sponsoring offices. The House bill was not introduced in time to be included in the Ways and Means Committee markup of opioid related legislation on May 16. The Senate bill sponsors hope to have the legislation included in any upcoming opioid package considered by the Senate Finance Committee.