26 Oct SUPPORT for Patients and Communities
Yesterday, the President of the United States signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act into law. It represents the incredible dedication and hard work of elected officials, advocates, patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals (HCP) that have shaped the many initiatives in the legislation to help combat the opioid addiction crisis. Each element is essential for fighting this crisis that is now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 and takes the lives of approximately 130 Americans every day.
The legislation is far-reaching and addresses a wide variety of aspects of the opioid crisis. It will increase the number of providers who are able to utilize medication-assisted treatment, although it may be more accurate and less stigmatizing to refer to it as just “treatment.” It does this by permanently allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to qualify for the DATA 2000 waiver and prescribe medication to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). It also provides incentives for students to enter the addiction field via student loan repayment options.
Additionally, the legislation expands access to treatment options by increasing coverage of medications for OUD. For Medicare beneficiaries, it allows for the inclusion of coverage for Outpatient Treatment Programs. It also allows Medicaid payments for OUD treatment in large inpatient facilities for up to 30 days in a qualifying residential facility. Importantly both Medicare and Medicaid coverage and reimbursement for “all medication-assisted treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration” will be reviewed by the Department of Health and Human Services, along with a review of access to treatment and recommendations for new payment and service delivery models. This is vitally important to assure that the right treatment is available to the right patient at the right time.
These provisions – and many others included in the legislation – are crucial to break down the barriers that are preventing patients from getting the treatment that they so desperately need. As we move forward, access remains a critical obstacle to overcome. Increasing the number of HCPs eligible to prescribe treatment and decreasing the complexities of the reimbursement model for OUD medications are key to addressing the bottleneck of patients seeking treatment and unable to find evidence-based care.
However, it should not stop there. Alongside the provisions of the bill, we must act to end the stigma associated with OUD predicated on the belief that it is a moral failing. Many studies have shown the changes to the brain from long-term exposure to opioids. OUD must be seen for what it is – a disease like Type 1 diabetes. A disease that can be managed with long-term with evidenced-based care. We look forward to working alongside others to help solve this crisis.
President & CEO