Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


Conferees Complete Work on Opioid Abuse

House and Senate conferees met last week to work towards a legislative compromise to combat opioid abuse, and filed a final conference report for the Comprehension Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) Wednesday evening. The report included $85 million over the next five years in new funding for addiction treatment. The conference committee split along party lines in voting against the proposal to further increase spending on CARA. Democrats had threatened to withhold support for the conference report if it did not include at least $920 million to expand access to addiction treatment. They proposed to pay for this new spending through $1.2 billion in offsets that would be made available by making changes to Medicare and Medicaid overpayment rules and by addressing fraud in the programs. Republicans argued that the issue of funding should be addressed during the annual appropriations process. The House Appropriations health-spending bill includes $581 million to address opioid abuse, but is far short of the President’s budget request of $1.1 billion. Democratic conferees ultimately refused to sign off on the final report. Although the White House and congressional Democrats strongly criticized the conference report’s lack of funding, they stopped short of issuing a veto threat or vowing to vote against the measure. The conference report was considered on the House floor on Friday, and was overwhelmingly passed by a 407-5 vote. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Mark Sandford (R-S.C.) voted against the measure. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed plans to hold a vote in the Senate before adjourning for summer recess. The White House also announced last week new administrative steps aimed at combatting the misuse of prescription painkillers. The administration will increase the buprenorphine patient cap from 100 to 275 beginning on August 5 in an attempt to increase access to medication-assisted treatment. The administration will also revise Medicare patient satisfaction surveys regarding how well their pain was managed. The surveys, which are tied to hospital payments, are thought to increase the prescribing of opioids.

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