Opioid addiction has been a hot topic in Washington and ACG has been keeping a watchful eye on Congress’ efforts. Both chambers of Congress are determined to pass sweeping reform to stop an epidemic that has taken far too many American lives.
President Trump has made opioid abuse response a major priority for the administration. While all parties share a common goal of reducing the availability of illicit and prescription opioids, expanding effective educational and rehabilitation programs, and saving lives, their methods for how to achieve these goals vary. In recent months, the House considered over 60 bills addressing the multifaceted landscape of opioid addiction in the country. On the Senate side, committees have combined different bills to create opioid packages. From federal grant monies to drug manufacturer oversight, pharmaceutical reform, inter-state information sharing, and patient privacy and data protection, opioid abuse legislation will affect many different organizations in the health care industry.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C) took the lead on opioid reform in the House. Over the past five months, E&C held five investigative hearings on opioid reform and eight markups before voting 60 bills out of committee. Last month, the 25 least controversial bills passed without issue on the House floor. The next week 18 more bills passed without issue.
House E&C Ranking Member, Frank Pallone (D-NJ-06), stressed on the House floor last week that “while these bills are well intentioned, Republicans’ ongoing efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), gut Medicaid, and take away critical protections for people with pre-existing conditions would have a devastating impact on people who suffered from opioid substance abuse.”
On the other side of the aisle, Chairman of the E&C Subcommittee on Health Michael Burgess (R-TX-26) stated that “this isn’t our first legislative foray to fight this scourge and it certainly won’t be our last.” This spring has had its partisan moments, especially as it pertains to government-funded health coverage funding. Nevertheless, the House is on track to pass more than 50 bills addressing opioid addiction. It is also clear that this is just the beginning for the House, as E&C Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR-02) put it, they will “legislate and evaluate… There will be more opportunities coming because we want to get it right. We’ll need to come back.”
As the House completes what House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) calls “the most significant congressional effort against a single drug crisis in history,” it will wrap all of the passed bills into H.R. 6, the Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act. Thereafter, a House aid stated that “ideally [the House] would like to go to conference with the Senate and work on what they enacted” once the Senate is ready to act on the floor. It is likely that the Senate will go to the floor in the upcoming weeks.
House E&C Chairman Walden hopes the bills get through the Senate by August, but acknowledged it might be “a bit of a stretch.”
With the Senate’s August recess postponed, there is a chance that Senators will be hammering out the details through the month. Nevertheless, both chambers are eager to advance bills to combat the crisis under an aggressive timeline, with an eye toward demonstrating action before the midterms on an issue that affects voters representing most demographics and districts.
Moving forward, there is likely to be consistent reform that will influence many aspects of the health care market. It is in times like these that it is vital to stay knowledgeable about the issues. The more involved the health care industry is in this political process, the better off the country is from hearing from experienced stakeholders. All the while, staying informed about proposed changes and advocating for one's position increases the likelihood that the opioid crisis does not create a crisis in your business.
Participants in the health care market should be prepared to respond to this first round of changes and the changes to come. ACG has a dedicated team that specializes in health care, with close ties to the E&C Committee, relationships with the most influential Senators, and contacts in the FDA. If our expertise might be helpful for the future of your business, please contact us.