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News & Press: Government Affairs News

What's in the New Opioid Law?

Thursday, October 25, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Bradley Coffey, MA, AAOE Government Affairs
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Washington, DC - President Donald Trump signed a sweeping opioid bill this week, vowing to "end the scourge of drug addiction" in the United States. The Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities, or SUPPORT for Patients and Communities, Act passed both chambers of Congress in September with strong bipartisan support and it contains several provisions that are likely to affect orthopaedic practices around the country.

Under the SUPPORT Act, prescriptions for controlled substances (such as opioids) must be transmitted electronically in accordance with an electronic prescription drug program that meets existing federal requirements. The legislation empowers the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to specify circumstances and processes by which the Secretary may waive this requirement. Look for rulemaking to be released in 2019 outlining the circumstances under which this requirement may be waived.

The Secretary of HHS is also authorized to award grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements to eligible entities (organizations that have demonstrated experience providing technical assistance to health care professionals on a state or regional basis and quality improvement entities with a contract under Medicare Part B) to educate and provide outreach to outlier prescribers of opioids about prescribing best practices and non-opioid pain management therapies.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) must also annually identify outlier prescribers of opioids and provide annual notification to these prescribers and provide resources on proper prescribing methods. The notification must include information on how the prescriber compares to other physicians within the same specialty and geographic area, proper prescribing guidelines based on input from stakeholders, and other information determined appropriate by the Secretary.

In a win for AAOE, a provision of the law (Sec. 6082) requires that CMS review payments under Medicare for opioid and non-opioid pain-management procedures, specifically with respect to ambulatory outpatient surgical procedures and hospital outpatient department services. The agency must ensure that there are no payment incentives for using opioids instead of non-opioid alternatives and must make revisions accordingly. AAOE would like to thank Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) for working with our government affairs staff to ensure that access to non-opioid pain modalities would be studied and de-bundled from the APCs for surgical episodes to incentivize facility prioritization of these safer drugs.

While there are other provisions that may affect individual orthopaedic practices, the above are the most generalizable to the orthopaedic specialty as a whole. Much of the rest of the law focuses on providing additional treatments for substance use disorder,  improving the government's response to the crisis, and educating beneficiaries on the proper use and disposal of opioids.


To learn more about the opioid epidemic and receive the information your practice needs, purchase the four-part AAOE Opioid Education Series recordings today (free for AAOE members). Available now on-demand.

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