"This is the second hearing in a series of hearings held by the Ways and Means Committee on the opioid crisis. Today we will explore opioid addiction and treatment in our Medicare population and how Congress can do more to improve detection, education, and prevention. Like many states, Illinois, is experiencing a notable increase in opioid-related overdose deaths. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, there has been a 44.3 percent increase in drug overdoses from 2013 to 2016. Approximately, 80 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2016 were opioid-related. Nationally, more than 42,000 Americans died from opioid-related drug overdoses in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That is over 115 people per day, and equivalent to over 14 people that would have lost their lives over the course of this hearing today. That is both horrible and distressing, and while we have taken steps to reduce opioid abuse, such as passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) last year, we have only begun to scratch the surface.
"With 10,000 baby boomers joining Medicare each day, we must harness innovation, technology and data to get ahead of this problem. Unfortunately, there is a lack of available data regarding the Medicare population and the extent to which opioid abuse, overprescribing, and diversion is an issue for seniors and the disabled. Additionally, gaps in coverage for those that suffer from opioid addiction exist.
"To help us examine what states are doing to address the opioid epidemic. We have Governor Phil Scott to discuss the tremendous efforts that the state of Vermont has undertaken to battle the crisis of opioid abuse through expanded treatment options and substance abuse disorder management.
"We have representatives from two health plans that serve Medicare beneficaries to discuss how payers are managing care for those that suffer from substance abuse disorder and the hurdles they face in doing so.
"Finally, to round out our witness panel we have two representatives from the medical field to discuss both medication assistant treatment and other interventional pain services.
"Our constituents have sent us to Washington to solve difficult problems, like the opioid crisis. And I look forward to working across the aisle on common sense solutions to improve our healthcare system and reduce the number of opioid-related overdose deaths."