Congressman John Faso (R-NY), Congressman Jim Renacci (R-OH), and Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) today introduced legislation, H.R. 5685 -- the Medicare Opioid Safety Education Act of 2018, to improve efforts to educate seniors on opioid alternatives through the Medicare Part D program. Seniors are given an informational booklet entitled "Medicare & You' prior to becoming Medicare-eligible that details the services available to them upon enrollment opening.
Currently, the word "opioid" appears only once in the booklet. The legislation introduced today would substantially improve opioid education in the booklet by adding available opioid alternatives and additional educational information.
"Nearly one in three seniors on Medicare part D were prescribed an opioid during the year 2016. That statistic underlines just how pervasive opioid pain killers are among seniors, who often are dealing with issues stemming from chronic pain," said Faso. "One of the best ways to combat the opioid crisis is to better educate the public on their risks, and to educate them on alternatives. This legislation is a straightforward and necessary change so we can protect our seniors and provide responsible and quality care."
"Over half a million Medicare beneficiaries were written prescriptions for excessive amounts of opioids in 2016, and 90,000 beneficiaries are at serious risk of opioid misuse or overdose," said Renacci. "We have to get out of this mindset that an opioid prescription is the first and best method of pain management. I'm pleased to be working with colleagues on introducing legislation that educates Medicare beneficiaries about the nature of opioids and alternative pain management treatments."
"The opioid crisis is ravaging communities in Vermont and across the country," said Welch. "It is imperative that we provide information to patients on the risks of opioid use as well as less addictive alternatives. This bipartisan legislation will provide seniors with vital information on the treatments available to them through Medicare."
A 2017 HHS study indicated that one-third of all Part D beneficiaries were prescribed some kind of opioid in 2016.
Close to 100k beneficiaries were deemed to be at serious risk due to "extreme" prescription amounts and doctor shopping.