The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new actions to fight the opioid epidemic.

The actions build on the National Pain Strategy, a federally coordinated plan for reducing and better treating chronic pain, which affects millions of people across the country.

Actions include the expansion of access to buprenorphine, a medication to treat opioid use disorders. Eligible providers now can apply to treat up to 275 patients at a time using this medication, according to a final rule published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Additionally, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed to eliminate potential financial incentives for prescribing opioids. Hospitals and medical professionals currently might be pressured to prescribe opioids, due to three pain management questions on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). CMS has proposed to remove these questions from the scoring of the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program, eliminating any potential financial incentives for prescribing opioids over other pain management techniques.

Contact Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.