Starting in fiscal year 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposes to no longer use the results from three pain management questions in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey in determining hospitals’ value-based purchasing program scores, the agency said today in the outpatient prospective payment system proposed rule for calendar year 2017. CMS would continue to collect and publicly report the results of the HCAHPS pain management questions, however. AHA has urged CMS to suspend the pain-related questions in the VBP program while the agency works to address concerns that the questions may create pressure to prescribe opioids. CMS also is field testing alternative pain management questions, which could be incorporated into the HCAHPS survey through future rulemaking. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration today issued a final rule that would allow qualified practitioners to request approval to treat up to 275 patients a year with buprenorphine if they have maintained an active waiver to treat up to 100 patients for a year and meet other criteria described in the rule. That’s up from an originally proposed 200 patients a year. Buprenorphine, a controlled substance, is one of three drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for medication-assisted treatment of opioid dependence. Among other actions, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a request for information on the most promising approaches in prescriber education and training programs and effective ways to leverage HHS programs to implement or expand them.

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