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  • Washington Highlights

    Obama Administration Announces Actions to Address Opioid and Heroin Epidemic

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    The Obama administration July 6 announced additional actions to address the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. Specifically the administration plans to expand access to treatment, strengthen prescription drug monitoring, enable safe disposal of unneeded drugs, and accelerate research on pain and opioid misuse.

    Another action includes a proposal from CMS to delink the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey’s pain management questions from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)’s calculations of hospital incentive payments under the Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program. (see related story) To prevent confusion for providers, hospitals would still report survey results regarding in-patient pain management experience; however, the results of the pain management questions will not affect the level of payment hospitals receive. The AAMC has endorsed bipartisan legislation that addresses this issue.

    The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also released a Request for Information on current HHS, non-federal, and other prescriber education programs that address opioid use disorder, including:

    • Adding new opioid prescriber education to Medicare Conditions of Participation and/or to Medicare enrollment requirements;
    • Adding quality measures around safe opioid use to the specialty core measures that clinicians may choose to report under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS); and
    • How states have developed, promoted, and made pain management and opioid analgesic prescriber education available.

    The administration announced that HHS released a report and inventory on opioid abuse and pain treatment research conducted or funded by its agencies. Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) July 8 issued a final rule to increase from 100 to 275 the number of patients that qualified physicians who prescribe buprenorphine can treat. The rule will take effect on Aug. 8, 2016, but they not that they will continue to accept additional comments on the rule.

    AAMC has endorsed legislation introduced by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (S.1455), which would allow certain medical professionals in qualified settings — including accredited residency and fellowship programs — to request an increased cap or an exemption from the patient cap.