Health Policy Check Up News

The Opioid Crisis: The Benefits of an Emergency

The Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has released their recommendations. In their first briefing, they urged President Trump to declare a national public health emergency. The committee created an alarming visual of opioid related deaths, stating 142 Americans die each day which is like having the death toll of September 11th every three weeks.

From 2000-2015 there were over 500,000 drug related deaths with opioids leading in the drug of choice. “The average American would likely be shocked to know that drug overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined,” the commission reported.

One of the goals of declaring a public emergency would be to create a sense of urgency in not only the government and public but also the health care field. In addition, if an emergency is declared, HIPPA regulations would temporarily relax in order to collect additional data which could lead to further information on opioid trends, user demographics, and ways to help fight the crisis.

The emergency would also allow the government to waive regulation that limits the number of Medicaid and Medicare recipients who can receive residential treatment for their addiction with an additional measure to expand access to medication that helps treat opioid addiction, such as naloxone which is used to reverse overdoses.

The Commission suggested funds for the emergency could be available by enacting the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act or the Public Health Service Act, with approximately $1.2 million available through the Disaster Relief Fund and $57,00 from the Public Health Emergency Fund. Whether these assets would be enough to create an impact on opioid abuse would remain to be seen.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has expanded treatment to Americans and with Trump adamantly against the ACA and the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) uncertain there is cause for concern.  An emergency was declared on August 10th by Trump. It will provide avenues for treatment but also create further questions regarding health insurance coverage for those in the private sector and those not covered by Medicaid or Medicare. Regardless, the administration will still need to tackle the issue of treatment coverage, something that has been and continues to be an ongoing issue. For more information, contact us today.