The House and Senate the week of June 11 continued their work on a series of bills intended to combat the opioid epidemic. The House June 12 approved an initial 25 bills and the consideration of an additional legislation will continue through next week. Bills considered in the House originated from the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, and other committees of jurisdiction [see Washington Highlights, May 18].
In a June 12 markup, the Senate Finance Committee passed opioid legislation titled, The Helping to End Addiction and Lessen (HEAL) Substance Use Disorders Act. Although the committee sought to keep the package low-cost, Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) offered and discussed their bipartisan Opioid Workforce Act of 2018, legislation that would provide an additional 1,000 residency positions to hospitals that have or are in the process of establishing approved residency programs in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, or pain management [see Washington Highlights, May 18].
Although the amendment was eventually withdrawn, Sen. Nelson spoke in support stating, “[W]e are going to have a shortage in this country, in just 12 years, somewhere between 42,000 and 121,000 physicians, a shortage. And obviously, physicians with a specialty on addiction . . . when we talk about addiction this [legislation] is certainly one way to get at it . . . we have a shortage of doctors.”
Sen. Heller also spoke in support of the legislation, stating, “In my home state of Nevada, the epidemic continues to rip apart both families and communities. With more than 600 Nevadans losing their lives annually to a drug overdose, I think that this measure today goes a long way to help solve and address some of these issues . . . Senator Nelson and I have also filed our Opioid Workforce Act as an amendment, which would help train more doctors in addiction medicine. These are important policies that will go a long way towards assisting patients and addressing the epidemic.”
In an effort to continue promoting the Opioid Workforce Act of 2018, Sens. Nelson and Heller, along with Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Ryan Costello (R-Penn.) June 14 sent a letter to House and Senate leadership requesting that the bill be included in any opioid-related legislative package to move through Congress.