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On the Hill: Senate Action on Funding, Opioid Bills

As Congress approaches the Labor Day holiday weekend, it will continue a focus on health care funding measures.

Last week, the Senate passed a joint funding package for the Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments, totaling $875 billion for fiscal year 2019. Notable health care funding provisions in the bill include a 5 percent funding boost for the National Institutes of Health and a $145 million increase in opioid spending, totaling $3.7 billion.

Lawmakers now must reconcile the Senate spending bill with the House version in conference. Senate leaders indicated their intent to wrap up the conference this week, before leaving for the holiday.

Senate Releases Opioid Legislation Draft

The Senate recently released its draft legislative response to the opioid crisis. Notably, the Senate plan does not include several provisions the House passed, including:

  • the IMD CARE Act, which would partially repeal the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion;
  • the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, which would align the regulations governing confidentiality of substance use disorder treatment records (42 CFR Part 2, or “Part 2”) with HIPAA standards; and
  • the Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act, which would require the Department of Health and Human Services to carry out a three-year demonstration program that awards grants to hospitals and emergency departments to develop, implement, enhance, or study alternative pain management protocols and treatments that promote limited use of opioids. The Senate version did not include specific language from the ALTO bill, but did include a similar funding mechanism to support hospitals in prescribing alternatives to opioids.

Senate Republican leaders indicated they hope to pass the package without added amendments by Labor Day weekend.

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About the Author

Erin Delaney is the legislative affairs associate at America's Essential Hospitals.