Congressional opioid efforts targeting Medicare, limits on new prescriptions

Published by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Tuesday that would set a three-day initial prescribing limit on opioids for acute pain and increase recovery services and availability for addicts.

The legislation would change policies and make more funding available through the $6 billion earmarked for opioids and mental health treatment in a two-year budget deal struck last month.

The Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition urged lawmakers to stick with the precedent established in 2016 and exempt long-term care facilities from the proposed three-day limit. The current version only includes an exception for hospice care.

“Patients in long-term care settings are at very low risk for opioid abuse, and those prescribed opioids suffer intense and severe pain which mean that some dispensing limits inadvertently threaten effective pain management,” said Alan G. Rosenbloom, SCPC president and CEO.

One in three participants in Medicare’s prescription drug program received a prescription for opioids in 2016, according to the Office of Inspector General. Across the country, overdose deaths increased nearly 28% from 2015 to 2016, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee held its first of three hearings Wednesday to discuss legislation, while the Ways and Means Committee has already made it clear Medicare’s handling of opioids will be in its sights.

The committee has asked insurers, benefit managers, providers and prescribers to submit information by March 15 that addresses how Medicare can help stem the epidemic.  Members specifically want information on overprescribing, data tracking, treatment, communication and education, The Hill reported.