House OKs bill expanding opioid-abuse treatment


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

The House has overwhelmingly approved legislation designed to give health care providers more tools to stem an opioid crisis that is killing more than 115 people in the U.S. daily.

The legislation passed Friday by a vote of 396-14. It incorporates dozens of opioid-related bills that lawmakers have made a campaign-season priority.

In urging the passage of the bill, many lawmakers told personal stories about how opioid abuse has affected constituents, family and friends.

The bill passed Friday encourages states to increase coverage of treatment for substance-abuse disorders through Medicaid. Foster youth and former prisoners are among the populations targeted for enhanced coverage of their treatment.

The legislation also seeks to expand the use of medications to treat opioid abuse. It would allow more health care providers to treat patients with a drug that reduces risks of overdoses. It adds methadone clinics to the Medicare program. The bill also adds incentive for doctors to use post-surgical injections as a pain-treatment alternative to opioids.

The Medicare changes are testament to the toll the crisis is taking on the elderly, with 300,000 Medicare patients having been diagnosed with opioid addiction.

The White House voiced its support for the House effort, which involved passing dozens of bills in the last two weeks to curb opioid abuse.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders urged the Senate to take the legislation up and “get these lifesaving bills to the president’s desk.” She said the bills represent “the most significant congressional effort against a single drug crisis in United States history.”

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