Addressing the Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis has impacted communities across the country, including here in Washington. In the United States, more than 115 people die every day from opioid misuse. But Washington state has lowered opioid overdoses since last year, due in part to expanded treatment and increasing access to life-saving medicine. This is promising news for Washingtonians.
Recently, Congress took a major step in addressing the opioid crisis by passing meaningful legislation that expands treatment options and combats illicit drug importation. Included in this legislation were two bills that I introduced, the Expanding Oversight of Opioid Prescribing and Payment Act and the Combatting Opioid Abuse for Care in Hospitals Act. The Expanding Oversight of Opioid Prescribing and Payment Act (H.R. 5723) requires the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to evaluate and report on adverse payment incentives that lead to the over prescription of opioids and underutilization of non-opioid alternatives in the hospital setting. The Combatting Opioid Abuse for Care in Hospitals Act (H.R.5774) requires the Department of Health and Human Services to provide hospitals with guidance on strategies for pain management and preventing opioid-use disorder for Medicare patients who receive treatment at the hospital. It also requires the establishment of two technical expert panels to review medical care quality measures and make recommendations on best practices for pain management and reducing opioid use in surgical settings.
Too many people are suffering from addiction that started from an opioid prescription when an alternative might have been available, including a gentleman I met who became addicted at age 17 simply because he was prescribed opioids when he had his wisdom teeth removed. We know that 80 percent of patients who undergo minor surgery are prescribed opioids at discharge which is an independent risk factor for chronic opioid use. This is problematic because ten percent of patients prescribed opioids for long term use develop an opioid use disorder. I am hopeful that my bills will provide the answers we need to reformulate our payment policies so that hospitals are given the right incentives and alternative strategies for pain management are more available.
Opioid addiction is a national crisis that requires a comprehensive approach. There is no one fix, but it requires collaboration between law enforcement, public health leaders, and medical professionals. These bills are a step in the right direction, by helping families and strengthening communities.
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