September 17,2018

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Hatch: Opioid Bill Includes Key Finance Committee Proposals

Utah Senator Says Opioid Crisis Response Act is “very good news

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today encouraged Senate passage of the Opioid Crisis Response Act. The package includes policies from the Helping to End Addiction and Lessen (HEAL) Substance Use Disorders Act of 2018, which Hatch introduced with Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) earlier this year and unanimously passed the Finance Committee in June.

“Last year, more than 72,000 Americans died from a drug overdose. The majority of these overdoses involved prescription or illicit opioids, like heroin or fentanyl,” Hatch said on the Senate floor. “We proceeded to work on ways that our committee, with its jurisdiction over Medicaid, Medicare, family services and customs could improve the lives of the millions of Americans who have been impacted by this devastating epidemic. The Opioid Crisis Response Act is the product of those efforts.”

The bipartisan HEAL Act includes key reforms to Medicare, Medicare and family services to address the nation’s opioid crisis. Hatch was especially pleased that the legislation is bipartisan and includes the input and ideas of five different Senate Committees, a difficult feat in this current political environment.

Hatch’s remarks, as delivered on the Senate floor this afternoon, follow:

I also am here today to talk about the passage of an incredibly important bill that will aid individuals, families and communities confronting an epidemic that is overwhelming our country. This isn’t my first time talking about the opioid epidemic, and, unfortunately, it likely won’t be my last. But I am happy to say that today’s speech will highlight some very good news. As part of a coordinated effort with four other committees, the Senate Finance Committee’s package will be voted on tonight as part of the Opioid Crisis Response Act. But before I get to what is in that bill, I want to give some details of the unfortunate reality our country is facing.

Last year, more than 72,000 Americans died from a drug overdose.  The majority of these overdoses involved prescription opioids or illicit opioids like heroin or fentanyl.

I have spoken to many families who have witnessed the devastating effects of these addictions first-hand and I have been sadly impressed by the pervasiveness of this rampant epidemic. Truly, I promise you that you have more friends, family and coworkers who have been affected by this epidemic than you probably realize. My home state of Utah continues to be hard hit by this crisis.  An alarming number of Utahns have undergone hospital stays and emergency room visits due to opioid overdoses.

In 2017 alone, over 450 Utahns died from an opioid overdose.   

As you may notice, Mr. President, Congress has recognized this problem for some time, and while this package is a significant step forward, it isn’t the first thing we’ve done, nor will it be the last. Take, for example, the bipartisan Family First Prevention Services Act, which was enacted earlier this year in February. Our committee also worked together to realize a ten-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which, as a part of its mission, helps moms, babies, children, and teenagers struggling with addiction or its impacts on families across the country.

Our work did not stop there.  We proceeded to work on ways that our committee, with its jurisdiction over Medicaid, Medicare, family services, and customs could work to improve the lives of the millions of Americans who have been impacted by this devastating epidemic.

Mr. President, there are simply too many pieces of this bill to cover them all in one speech, but I’d like to give some highlights:

 The bill will make a real difference in Medicare, a program in which one in three beneficiaries is prescribed an opioid.  It will empower patients through information on pain treatment alternatives.  it will expand treatment options for patients suffering from addiction, including through increased access to care via telehealth and a pilot program that will allow Medicare to cover methadone and wrap-around services to treat addiction for the first time.  The bill also increases the ability to track opioid prescriptions to prevent misuse and diversion, while also ensuring beneficiaries promptly get the medications they need.  We know many children are in foster care as a result of the opioid epidemic, and this bill supports programs that will help parents complete treatment for opioid addictions and reunite with their children more quickly. It will also increase the availability of family residential treatment programs, allowing more parents to receive help while still caring for their children in a supervised setting.

 For the first time since Medicaid became law in 1965, pregnant women can receive Medicaid coverage for prenatal and postnatal care while seeking treatment at institutions for mental disease. New and improved prescription drug monitoring programs allow states to better understand the full scope of an individual’s prescription use across payments and insurers. This bill brings that data into the hands of providers and insurance plans to help them develop care plans for those with substance use disorders.

 Additionally, this package is not limited to fixes in the healthcare space. We also worked with Senator Portman to craft the bipartisan STOP Act which has also been incorporated into this package. That bill sets new requirements for the United States Postal Service to obtain advance electronic data that allows for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to effectively target and stop Fentanyl and other illegal substances from entering the country through our postal system.  Getting our law enforcement this additional data will bolster efforts to stop dangerous opioids at the border and keep them away from American families. 

 In short, Mr. President, the Finance Committee’s portion of this larger effort is an important step forward, but it is made that much more meaningful given the wide-ranging provisions included from the Judiciary, Commerce, Banking and HELP Committees.  Together, this bill will provide the resources, capacities, and direction to state, local, and federal governments to better assist those who are in such great need right now.

 Additionally, I want to thank the Leader, the Chairmen, the Ranking Members, and all other members of the four other committees that have been involved in this great undertaking. There has been no shortage of effort or genuine concern from both sides of the aisle to address this painful issue that has hurt so many American families. I appreciate this bipartisan push to create a successful piece of legislation, and I think this bill represents Congress at its best. I encourage all my friends on both sides of the aisle to vote for this important piece of legislation tonight and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to advance a bill that addresses the opioid epidemic to the president’s desk.