Cardin, Cassidy, Nelson Introduce Legislation to Increase Access to Opioid Treatment

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today introduced the Comprehensive Opioid Management and Bundled Addiction Treatment (COMBAT) Act to increase access to opioid treatment programs and services for seniors on Medicare. The legislation would provide coverage and reimbursement in the form of a bundled payment for opioid treatment programs and services, including medication assisted treatment, counseling, behavioral and group therapy, toxicology testing, and any other services that the Secretary deems necessary.

“The opioid epidemic has devastated this country, with no corner of society immune from its negative impacts. This includes the Medicare population, where there is a growing prevalence of opioid use disorder and opioid related hospitalizations. This bill not only provides those on Medicare with the medication assisted treatment they require, but also gives these beneficiaries access to counseling and other care coordination services to help them overcome their addiction,” said Senator Cardin. “Together we can beat this epidemic, and this bipartisan legislation will move us closer to that goal.”

“To combat the opioid crises, we need a strong, sustained, ‘do everything’ response,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This bill ensures seniors have access to the resources needed to fight addiction and return to wholeness.”

“More and more seniors who depend on Medicare for their health care are becoming addicted to opioids. They need our help, and this bill will help provide them access to comprehensive addiction treatment so they can get the care they need when and where they need it,” said Senator Nelson.

Almost one-third of all Medicare patients — nearly 12 million people — were prescribed opioid painkillers by their physicians in 2015. That same year, 2.7 million Americans over age 50 abused painkillers, meaning they took them for reasons or in amounts beyond what their doctors prescribed. The hospitalization rate due to opioid abuse has quintupled for those 65 and older in the past two decades.

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