The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation Friday that would make it easier for providers to treat patients suffering from opioid addiction.
In a 396-14 vote, the House approved the Support for Patients and Communities Act, a package of smaller bills that attack the opioid crisis on multiple fronts.
American Hospital Association Executive Vice President Tom Nickels said the trade group was especially pleased to see overwhelming support for provisions that would expand the use of telehealth services for substance use disorder; guide improved care for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome; and increase the types and capacity of providers offering medication-assisted treatment.
Lawmakers similarly said it is critical to be innovative and flexible in developing care plans for people dependent on opioids.
"This is an important step in our work to leverage technology to meet the healthcare needs of our communities," said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.). "The integration of telemedicine into our healthcare ecosystem is one way we can expand access to treatment and services for patients with addiction."
Two other key parts of the package include partially repealing what is known as the Institutes for Mental Disease exclusion, a 1960s-era law that blocks Medicaid funding from inpatient stays in mental health and behavioral health facilities. The other rolls back enhanced privacy protections for addicts that forbid any physician or other medical provider from sharing a patient's medical history with another practitioner who is treating that patient.
The bill also aims to encourage conversations about opioid dependence by covering screening for addiction as part of Medicare beneficiaries' first physical examination.