In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-involved overdoses. The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse alone in the U.S. is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
Substance-abuse-related mortalities have drastically increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the opioid public health crisis continues to worsen. Consequently, there is a growing bipartisan consensus that we must do more to ensure that Americans struggling with these issues have access to safe, effective, live-saving treatments.
On February 25, 2021, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representatives Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) and Michael Turner (R-OH) announced the reintroduction of their Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act of 2021. This legislation would significantly increase access to life-saving addiction medicine by eliminating a duplicative bureaucratic hurdle—known as the “x-waiver”—currently blocking millions of highly trained health professionals from prescribing buprenorphine to their patients. In addition to expanding access to Medically Assisted Treatments, the MAT Act would also eliminate barriers to behavioral health and community-based therapies
On March 4, 2021, Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (NOPAIN) Act. Representatives Terri Sewell (D-AL) and David McKinley (R-WV) plan to reintroduce companion legislation in the House. The legislation aims to help address barriers to non-opioid pain management for those enrolled in Medicare. Under current law, hospitals receive the same payment from Medicare regardless of whether a physician prescribes an opioid, or a non-opioid. As a result, hospitals often rely on opioids, which are typically dispensed by a pharmacy after discharge at little or no cost to the hospital. The NOPAIN Act would change this policy by providing separate Medicare reimbursement for non-opioid treatments used to manage pain in both the hospital outpatient department and ambulatory surgery center settings.