Proposed Opioid Bill Ensures Patient Privacy While Helping MDs Make Rx Decisions

An estimated one-in-three Americans had a prescription for opioids in 2015 and that number continues to grow. With that growth has come a startling increase in the number of overdose deaths.

The National Center for Health Statistics reported that overdose deaths hit a record 19.9 per 100,000 population in the third quarter of 2016, up from 16.7 for the same three months in 2015.

U.S. Reps. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Earl Blumenaur (D-OR) have introduced legislation that would allow physicians to gain access to a patient’s complete medical records – including their addiction treatment history – before making any prescribing decisions.

Dubbed the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety (OPPS) Act, H.R. 3545 would amend the 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 2, known simply as “Part 2.” that prevents doctors from reviewing their patients’ histories of addiction treatment before prescribing opioids and other drugs.

Part 2 initially was created to provide confidentiality to those who needed to seek drug addiction treatment. The bill is designed to give physicians access to those records to allow them to provide proper care, while at the same time maintaining patient confidentiality under HIPAA.

Specifically, H.R. 3545 simplifies and aligns Part 2 regulations with the existing confidentiality protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Additionally, for Americans who are in recovery, the bill strengthens existing Part 2 protections that prevent the disclosure of addiction treatment records in a manner that might lead to prosecution, discrimination or loss of employment, housing, or child custody. This ensures the highest level of privacy is maintained, according to a statement by Murphy, who also is a practicing psychologist and mental health policy expert.

A report by the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which was established in March, urged President Trump to declare a national emergency, which he did on Aug. 10.

The commission made the following recommendations:

  • Eliminate the IMD exclusion within the Medicaid program.
  • Mandate various prescriber education initiatives
  • Immediately establish and fund a federal incentive to enhance access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
  • Provide model legislation for states to allow naloxone dispensing via standing orders, as well as requiring the prescribing of naloxone with high risk opioid prescriptions
  • Prioritize funding and manpower to the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, the DOJ, FBI and the DEA, to quickly develop fentanyl detection sensors and disseminate them to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies
  • Provide federal funding and technical support to states to enhance interstate data sharing among state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to better track patient-specific prescription data and support regional law enforcement in cases of controlled substance diversion. Ensure federal healthcare systems, participate in state-based data sharing.
  • Better align, through regulation, patient privacy laws specific to addiction HIPAA to ensure that information about Substance Use Disorders be made available to medical professionals treating and prescribing medication to a patient.
  • Enforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) with a standardized parity compliance tool to ensure health plans cannot impose less favorable benefits for mental health and substance use diagnoses verses physical health diagnoses.

The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale can assist clients with interpreting the bill and its possible effects, as well as contact representatives on your behalf for notice and comment on the bill’s practical effects.