McCaskill, Bipartisan Senators Urge Medicare & Medicaid Agency to Better Combat Opioid Epidemic by Expanding Treatment Access

Improving and expanding access for treatment options are focus as McCaskill continues fight against growing epidemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of 29 Senators in urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to take additional steps to combat the worsening opioid addiction crisis.

“Over the past two decades, [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] has taken important strides to expand eligibility, protect benefits, and improve provider capacity for the coverage of substance use disorder services in Medicaid,” wrote McCaskill and her colleagues in a letter to Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “However, we remain concerned that these measures may be insufficient to respond to the opioid epidemic and will not afford enough states the opportunity to enact meaningful changes for beneficiaries.”

The bipartisan group called on the agency to alter current policy, under which options for patients seeking substance abuse treatment are severely limited, and to expand covered services to include substance abuse treatment in all medically necessary care settings. Currently, Medicaid prohibits reimbursement to states for services provided by Institutions for Mental Disease—including residential addiction treatment facilities with over 16 beds, dramatically limiting options for patients seeking substance abuse treatment.

On her recent tour of Missouri with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, McCaskill highlighted the need for change in Missouri law to create a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). Among Midwestern states, Missouri ranks number one in the rate of prescription opioids sold in the region. McCaskill also traveled to Jefferson City, Mo. earlier this year to hold a field hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and highlight the national epidemic of increased opioid addiction, abuse, and overdose deaths. If Missouri expands Medicaid, there are 91,000 uninsured people with a mental illness or substance use disorder who would be able to access treatment.

A motion shaped by McCaskill was successfully included in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recover Act—federal legislation that was recently signed into law which provides resources to states to combat the number of prescription drug and heroin deaths across the countrywhich enables St. Louis County’s network of county-level PDMPs to be eligible to apply for federal resources. The language McCaskill successfully added would allow local governments in Missouri with PMDPs to apply for a new Department of Health and Human Services grant to establish, maintain, or improve their local PDMPs. Without this provision, eligibility for this federal grant funding would have been limited to states.

Full text of the letter can be found HERE.

Click HERE to read a recent op-ed by McCaskill on the opioid epidemic.