We were pleased to see the House of Representatives this week move forward dozens of bills designed to address aspects of the opioid epidemic that costs more than 100 American lives each day and continues to ravage communities across the nation.

In March, AHA released our priorities for congressional action. And the various bills considered by the House during the past two weeks attempt to address nearly all of these issues. While the bills take a multi-pronged approach to tackling the epidemic, they essentially fall into two categories: preventing addiction and improving access to treatment and recovery.

Case in point: two bipartisan bills that will go a long way in making a difference for patients. The first would allow health care providers to responsibly share substance use disorder information by aligning the outdated 42 CFR Part 2 regulations with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This sounds incredibly technical but it’s really quite simple, and vitally important to ensuring patients get the right care at the right time. Clinicians treating patients for any condition need access to their complete medical histories, including information related to any SUD, to ensure their patients’ safety and delivery of the highest quality care. But current regulations require information regarding a patient’s SUD diagnosis and treatment to be kept separate from other records, a requirement that is dangerous for the patient, problematic for providers and contributes to the stigmatization of SUDs. The bill passed this week would fix that and ensure providers have access to a patient’s full medical history. This will help ensure they are not prescribing opioids to a patient in recovery or recommending medications that could lead to a negative drug interaction. 

The second bill would cover adult Medicaid beneficiaries’ treatment for opioid and cocaine use disorder for up to 30 days per year in an Institution for Mental Disease. Current law prevents federal Medicaid dollars from being used to fund this care, and it has led to a shortage of available treatment beds and overcrowding in emergency departments. 

We commend the House for its bipartisan effort to combat the opioid epidemic. And we urge the Senate to quickly follow suit. Improving patients’ access to care, and providers’ access to information to help ensure that care is the safest and best course of treatment for the patient, is critical to fighting this epidemic.

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