WV Congressional delegation urges HHS to make changes to Opioid Treatment Policy

U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), along with U.S. Representatives David McKinley (R-W.Va.-1), Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.-2), and Carol Miller (R-W.Va.-3) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma calling for immediate action to address a decision by CMS that could negatively affect access to treatment for opioid addiction. This action comes as West Virginia continues to battle both the COVID-19 public health emergency and the ongoing opioid epidemic.

The issue arises from CMS’ interpretation of a provision within the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, bipartisan legislation to address the nation’s opioid crisis that was signed into law in 2018. The provision, Section 1006(b), seeks to ensure Medicaid beneficiaries have access to all forms of Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) used to treat opioid dependence. However, CMS has informed states, including West Virginia, that implementation of the provision will change the way they are able to finance the purchase of these medications, resulting in much higher costs for the state’s Medicaid program and potentially tragic drug therapy interruptions and discontinuations.  

In their letter, the delegation urged HHS and CMS to act quickly and decisively to avoid the grim clinical implications of CMS’ statutory interpretation. In addition, the members of the delegation continue to work with their Congressional colleagues on possible legislative remedies.

“The SUPPORT Act was intended to facilitate resolution of the opioid use epidemic. We must ensure no actions are taken that would unnecessarily impede movement towards that goal, especially now as we face both this and the COVID-19 pandemic,” the delegation wrote.

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