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Pallone Touts Opioid Legislation As It Becomes Law

October 24, 2018
Press Release
New Law Includes Provisions Sponsored or Pushed by Pallone

Long Branch, NJ – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) touted H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act as it was signed into law today by President Trump.  Pallone, the Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was one of the lead negotiators on the final bipartisan bill that overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate earlier this fall. 

“The opioid package being signed into law today makes important, incremental changes to support those affected by the opioid crisis,” Pallone said. “I’m particularly proud of several Democratic-led provisions that will expand access to treatment for those suffering from opioid use disorders. Specifically, the new law will expand access to medication-assisted treatment, one of the major challenges that we continue to face in the fight against this epidemic, and it will improve coverage under Medicare and Medicaid. The law also includes strong, new enforcement tools that will allow the Food and Drug Administration to combat illicit drug importation. All of these provisions make a real difference in the fight against the opioid epidemic.”

Monmouth and Ocean Counties are among the highest 5 counties in New Jersey with substance abuse treatment admissions. In 2016, there were 1409 opioid-related overdose deaths­­­ in New Jersey. Heroin-related deaths rose from 97 deaths in 2010 to 850 deaths in 2016. In New Jersey, more than 184,000 individuals have been admitted to substance abuse treatment facilities for heroin or opioid abuse since 2010 and more than 5,000 have died from heroin-related deaths since 2004. 

The final bill also includes two provisions authored by Pallone.  The New Jersey congressman co-authored a provision that expands Medicare coverage of Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).  Currently, OTPs are not recognized as Medicare providers, meaning that beneficiaries receiving MAT at OTPs for their opioid use disorders must pay out-of-pocket. In 13 states, the highest rate of opioid-related inpatient hospital stays is among individuals over the age of 65. Under H.R. 6, Medicare will pay OTPs through bundled payments made for holistic services, including necessary medications, counseling, and testing.

Pallone also authored a provision known as the SCREEN Act, which will give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the ability to take action against illicit controlled substances coming in through International Mail Facilities across the country.  FDA will now be able to prohibit the importation of drugs by people who have repeatedly imported illicit drugs.  It also allows the agency to cease distribution of or recall controlled substances, like opioids, if they are endangering patients.     

The bill will expand the type of providers who can treat patients with buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD). Currently, only physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants can use buprenorphine (one of the drugs used in MAT) to treat patients with OUD. H.R. 6 would expand access to MAT by authorizing clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists to treat patients with OUD with buprenorphine for five years.

While Pallone is pleased with this opioid legislation, he remains concerned by efforts by President Trump and Congressional Republicans to undermine our nation’s health care system, which will directly impact people suffering from opioid use disorders.

“Despite touting this new law today, President Trump and Congressional Republicans continue to threaten to undermine the health care that Americans rely on for opioid treatment,” Pallone continued. “It is disingenuous at best to promise relief to people struggling with opioid addiction while also attempting to cut funding for Medicaid and eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which include opioid use disorder. Rather than cutting funding for those seeking treatment and allowing insurance companies to discriminate against people struggling with addiction, we should be focused on protecting people’s access to health care and making sure they can get treatment.

“While this opioid package builds on our prior work to respond to the opioid crisis, we cannot forget the tremendous harm Republican policies would inflict on the same people this package seeks to help,” Pallone concluded.