Walorski Introduces Legislation to Combat Opioid Epidemic

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Walorski Introduces Legislation to Combat Opioid Epidemic

Bipartisan Bill Named for Dr. Todd Graham, South Bend Doctor Killed After Refusing to Prescribe Opioids, Aims to Expand Non-Opioid Treatments

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today introduced bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid epidemic by improving access to non-opioid pain treatments. The Dr. Todd Graham Pain Management Improvement Act (H.R. 5722), named for the South Bend doctor shot to death after refusing to write a prescription for opioid painkillers, aims to reduce overprescribing of opioids by examining ways to expand the use of non-opioid alternatives in Medicare. Walorski was joined by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) in introducing the bill.

“Opioid abuse is devastating families and communities across the country, and the senseless murder of my dear friend Dr. Todd Graham was a tragic reminder of how serious this crisis is,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “We have already taken steps to reduce overprescribing of opioids, but we must do more to ensure patients have access to non-addictive pain management options. As we continue working toward commonsense solutions to the opioid epidemic, this bipartisan bill will help break down barriers to non-opioid treatments and give doctors better tools to prevent addiction.”

“As opioid addiction impacts families in every community across the country, it’s imperative that we find alternatives to keep more individuals from that destructive path. That starts with expanding options for patients,” said Rep. Chu. “And with millions of beneficiaries, Medicare is one of our best tools for that. When it comes to combatting this crisis, patients need to have access to every tool in the toolbox that can help treat and manage pain. I want to thank Jackie Walorski for her hard work on this bill as well. The opioid epidemic knows no partisanship, and I am proud to partner with Rep. Walorski to bring life-saving alternatives to opioids to more Americans.”

BACKGROUND

The Dr. Todd Graham Pain Management Improvement Act of 2018 would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a study and submit recommendations to Congress on improving access to non-opioid pain management treatments.

H.R. 5722 would direct HHS to solicit stakeholder feedback and conduct a study on ways to improve payment, coverage, and coding policies related to the use of multi-disciplinary, evidence-based non-opioid treatments for acute and chronic pain management for beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part A or B. The study would include an evaluation of possible coverage and payment barriers that prevent Medicare beneficiaries from accessing non-opioid alternative pain treatments and technologies.

The study would include evaluations of potential legislative and administrative changes to Medicare to allow beneficiaries better access to non-opioid treatments for pain, such as cognitive behavioral interventions, physical therapy, occupational therapy, physical medicine, biofeedback, chiropractic, and acupuncture therapy. It would also provide analysis of Medicare coverage and payment for medical devices, non-opioid based drugs, and other therapies (including interventional and integrative pain therapies) approved or cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of pain.

In addition, the bill would direct HHS to analyze the VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for Management of Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain to consider whether the adoption of the VA/DoD pain rating scale would be more beneficial to Medicare patients with chronic pain.

The bill would also require HHS to develop recommendations on legislative and administrative action in the following policy areas:

  • Expanding coverage and payment for non-opioid pain management therapy options that minimize the risk of substance use disorder;
  • Treatment strategies for beneficiaries with psychiatric disorders or substance use disorders, those who are at risk of suicide, or those with other comorbidities that require specialty care;
  • Appropriate case management for beneficiaries who transition between inpatient and outpatient settings, or between opioid therapy to non-opioid therapy; and
  • Outreach to educate Medicare beneficiaries and providers on alternative, non-opioid therapies to manage and treat acute and chronic pain, including potential creation of a beneficiary education tool.

HHS would consult with stakeholders, including frontline provider and beneficiary groups, to ensure input is provided from across the medical community.

Todd A. Graham, M.D., a doctor with more than three decades of service, was shot and killed on July 26th, 2017, after refusing to prescribe an opioid painkiller to the shooter’s wife. Dr. Graham was a double board-certified physician in both Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Pain Medicine.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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