By a vote of 98 – 1, Congress today passed bipartisan legislation aimed at combating the opioid epidemic.
Following is a list of the provisions U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) sponsored that were included in the sweeping bill approved by the Senate:
- Detecting sober home fraud – Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a list of the most common illicit practices associated with fraudulent sober homes, and to distribute the list to law enforcement and consumers to help them identify unscrupulous sober homes and drug treatment centers. Additionally, the bill makes it a federal crime for health care providers to receive kickbacks for referring a patient to a sober home or drug treatment center, a practice known as patient-brokering.
- Helping opioid dependent mothers and babies – Requires the collection and analysis of data on newborn babies suffering from opioid withdrawal to help improve the quality of care being provided to them. HHS would also be required under the bill to release best practices to improve care for these newborn babies and their mothers.
- Cracking down on fraudulent opioid treatment programs – Makes any unfair or deceptive act or practice with regard to any substance abuse treatment program or productexplicitly unlawful. In doing so, it will authorize the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to seek penalties against fraudulent treatment programs that take advantage of people seeking opioid addiction treatment.
- Increasing student access to telehealth – Requires the federal government to explore the use of telehealth as a cost-efficient way to provide students with substance use disorders – such as an addiction to alcohol or opioids – the professional help they need at their school health clinics.
- Covering opioid addiction-recovery services under Medicare – Requires Medicare to provide coverage for opioid addiction-recovery services at opioid treatment programs, like medication-assisted treatment, toxicology screenings and behavioral health services.
- Providing comprehensive screenings for seniors – Requires doctors, nurses and health care providers to discuss the risk of opioid addiction with patients covered under Medicare. Another provision would require that comprehensive information on the risk of opioid addiction be included in the “Medicare & You” handbook that’s mailed each year to seniors on Medicare.
- Expanding access to non-opioid treatment options – Ensures states are aware of non-opioid treatment options, such as physical therapy, that they can provide to residents under Medicaid.
The final text of the conference report can be found here.
The bill now heads to the president’s desk for his signature.