June 12,2018

Press Contact:

Katie Niederee and Julia Lawless, 202-224-4515

Hatch Opening Statement at Markup of Legislation to Address Opioid Crisis

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today delivered the following opening statement at a markup of the Helping to End Addiction and Lessen (HEAL) Substance Use Disorders Act of 2018

The opioid epidemic has hurt and continues to affect millions of Americans every year. 

I’ve noted this before, but my home state of Utah has been particularly hard hit. In 2014 alone, opioids killed 289 Utahns, accounting for more than half of the drug-overdose related deaths in the state for that year. According to information from the Utah Department of Health, “Every month in Utah, 24 individuals die from prescription opioid overdoses.” 

This is unacceptable. 

And I am grateful to be here today, with all of my good friends and colleagues on this committee, to find ways for Congress to assist states and communities as they confront this crisis. 

As we all know, our committee has broad jurisdiction over many different programs that touch on the opioid space. For example, Medicaid is right in the middle of the fight against opioids; in 2016, 4 million people with a substance use disorder were covered by Medicaid. 

Additionally, in the Medicare space, in 2016, one in three beneficiaries received at least one opioid prescription, resulting in over $4 billion in Part D program spending. 

But our jurisdiction doesn’t end there, the opioid epidemic has also had a significant impact on families, with states reporting that more than one in three children enter foster care, in whole or in part, because of parental substance abuse—and the opioid epidemic is a major cause of this increase. 

It should come as no shock to anyone here, with this kind of jurisdiction, virtually every member of this committee has been engaged in this area for some time. 

That is why, earlier this year, Senator Wyden and I sent out a letter to stakeholders requesting feedback on how we could improve our response to the opioid epidemic through non-controversial, bipartisan reforms in Medicare, Medicaid, and human services programs. 

As expected, we had an overwhelming response.  

Together, Ranking Member Wyden and I shared the responses we received publically for members to read.  We then solicited feedback from Finance Committee members on their priorities, and asked that they focus on policies that would meet a set of criteria intended to maintain the bipartisan nature of this Committee, while also making significant reforms to the health and human services programs within our jurisdiction. 

The reason for these rules is simple. 

This committee has very broad and important jurisdiction, over things that are often complex and controversial. Focusing the scope of this package ensures we have a manageable objective. In order to get things done, Senator Wyden and I recognized that, from the beginning, we would need to avoid the pitfalls and landmines that have previously disrupted bipartisan work in the healthcare space. 

After all, I firmly believe reforms made through regular order are the most durable, meaningful, and generally speaking, the best way to legislate.  

That is what we are doing at today’s meeting. The package in front of us contains 22 non-controversial, bipartisan bills.

These bills represent the diligent work and effort by the members on this committee. And I am confident each of these proposals will help make a difference in the millions of lives affected by the ongoing opioid epidemic. 

That is why I am so deeply committed to ensuring we process this mark today and get it out of the committee. Truly, this has been a team effort, and I am grateful for each and every one of the members who have taken the call seriously to construct this package today. 

These proposals will expand and clarify options under Medicaid for treating people suffering from addiction, as well as improve the data used to evaluate approaches that address the epidemic. Under this package, Medicare recipients will help get the treatment they need, while this package also includes additional steps to weed out fraud, waste, and abuse.   

But it doesn’t end there. These proposals will also help those with a substance use disorder who have children by supporting family-focused residential treatment, as well as programs that help parents complete treatment and reunite with their children more quickly. 

Truly, these are all important changes.