Skip to main content


Trump to Sign Major Opioids Package Into Law

By Steven Porter  
   October 24, 2018

The bill slated to be signed Wednesday includes several provisions that could directly affect stakeholders in the business side of healthcare.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign a sweeping package of opioid-related bills into law on Wednesday after Congress overwhelmingly passed the measures earlier this month.

The legislation aims to expand the availability of medical treatment to opioid users after the U.S. saw a record 72,000 overdose deaths last year.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar acknowledged the grim 2017 figure but struck an optimistic note, saying Tuesday during his speech at the Milken Institute Future of Health Summit in D.C. that "the number of drug overdose deaths has begun to plateau."

Citing provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Azar said the trend began turning in late 2017 and early 2018, though there's still much progress to be made.

"Plateauing at such a high level is hardly an opportunity to declare victory. But the concerted efforts of communities across America are beginning to turn the tide," he said, touting the Trump administration's disbursement of treatment and recovery grants last month and inpatient addiction treatment Medicaid waivers granted to 11 states.

The administration also released a new model Tuesday designed to help new mothers and their infants dealing with opioid use disorder.

The bill slated to be signed Wednesday includes several provisions that could directly affect stakeholders in the business side of healthcare:

  • IMD Exclusion: The measure partially repeals Medicaid's prohibition on covering inpatient treatment for certain patients at facilities with more than 16 beds. Opening up access to so-called Institutions for Mental Disease could expand access to addiction treatment.
  • Telehealth options: The legislation directs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to issue guidance to states on what their options are to provide telehealth services under Medicaid to address disorders related to substance abuse.
  • Drug management programs: The law will speed up the use of drug management programs for at-risk Medicare beneficiaries by making such programs mandatory for all prescription drug plans by 2022.

The rare show of bipartisan cooperation has drawn praise from a variety of stakeholder groups, though some remain skeptical that the law will prove as revolutionary as it aims to be.

"The recent opioid legislation that passed has the potential to make a small difference, but its potential effectiveness will depend on how the legislation is implemented," Dr. Lynn Webster, vice president of PRA Health Sciences and a past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, told CNN. "I think it is premature to celebrate victory when we experienced a record number of 72,000 drug-related deaths last year."

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.