House Passes Landmark Opioid Package with HITN-Led Telehealth & Electronic Prescribing Language

WASHINGTON, DC (June 22, 2018): Health IT Now's Opioid Safety Alliance - a working group of prescribers, dispensers, professional societies, and patients advocating for the use of technology to fight illegitimate opioid use - responded to the overwhelming House passage today of H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), encompasses several previously introduced measures, including the Opioid Safety Alliance-endorsed H.R. 5603, the Access to Telehealth Services for Opioid Use Disorder Act, and H.R. 3528, the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act.

H.R. 5603, endorsed by nearly a dozen organizations in a HITN Opioid Safety Alliance-led letter of support in April, would expand access to treatment via telehealth for substance use disorders in the Medicare program.

H.R. 3528 would require electronic prescribing for controlled substances within Medicare’s prescription drug program with certain exceptions. A study by HITN's Opioid Safety Alliance found that the policy could save taxpayers $13 billion over the next decade while reducing total National Health Expenditures (NHE) - which include costs to states and private payers - by $22 billion during the same timeframe. 

HITN Opioid Safety Alliance Executive Director Joel White released the following statement celebrating House passage of H.R. 6 with Health IT Now's telehealth and electronic prescribing provisions included: 

"With passage of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, members of Congress have coalesced around bold, actionable solutions to bring technology to bear in solving this devastating opioid epidemic. Opioid Safety Alliance members are particularly pleased this bill will remove bureaucratic barriers to vital telehealth services for those suffering from addiction, while also modernizing prescribing practices for controlled substances within Medicare Part D to ensure optimal safety for patients and better record keeping for providers. These solutions can make a world of difference both in dollars saved and, more importantly, lives spared," said HITN Opioid Safety Alliance Executive Director Joel White. 

White continued, "We still have much work to do when it comes to fully leveraging technology and data to heal from this public health crisis - including the enactment of a Prescription Safety Alert System to thwart opioid misuse in real-time and capture transactions that occur across state lines - but the House has done laudable work and, now, it is incumbent on the Senate to quickly follow their lead." 

Background:
As the leading voice supporting the use of technology and data to solve the opioid crisis, Health IT Now's Opioid Safety Alliance also shepherded passage this week of H.R. 5773 the Preventing Addiction for Susceptible Seniors (PASS) Act of 2018and H.R. 6082, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety (OPPS) Act. Alliance members also endorsed H.R. 3331, legislation passed last week promoting the adoption of certified electronic health records among behavioral health providers. Learn more about the work of Health IT Now's Opioid Safety Alliance here.