The House on Friday voted 407-5 to pass legislation aimed at curbing opioid misuse in the United States, despite lingering concerns from Democratic lawmakers about the adequacy of the bill's funding.
The measure now heads to the Senate, which is expected to take up the measure this week.
Senate advances bill to combat opioid-misuse epidemic
Background: House, Senate reach agreement on opioid legislation
The House and Senate previously had voted to create a conference committee to negotiate a deal combining a House-approved 18-bill legislative package, called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), and a companion Senate bill.
The chambers last week finalized the compromise legislation. Among other steps, the agreement would enable the federal government to issue states grants to:
- Create alternatives to incarceration for opioid misusers;
- Examine ways to reduce illicit opioid distribution; and
- Support efforts to train first responders about treating opioid-related overdoses.
How physicians can help curb the opioid epidemic
Republican lawmakers last week rejected two amendments that would have provided $920 million to fund state programs to combat opioid misuse. Republican lawmakers said they opposed the new funding in part because the House Appropriations Committee last week released a draft health spending bill that included $581 million to address opioid misuse.
Democratic lawmakers had called for more funding signaled they would not support the agreement because it provided too little funding.
House Democrats drop opposition
However, House Democratic lawmakers dropped their opposition ahead of the vote. Many cited the Obama administration's recent announcement of new measures to combat the U.S. opioid misuse epidemic as a reason why they dropped their opposition to the compromise bill. House Democrats also cited the House Appropriations Committee's pledge to include funding for efforts to combat opioid misuse in its fiscal year 2017 spending bill.
HHS announces $94M in grants to address US opioid epidemic
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said the compromise bill is "not perfect and does not nearly do enough from a funding perspective, but it makes some important steps that would allow us to begin to address the opioid addiction crisis that is impacting our nation."
According to The Hill, House Democrats' support for the bill signals Senate Democrats likely will drop similar opposition to the measure.
A spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Senate Democrats do not plan to block the measure. While it is unclear how many will vote to approve the bill, it is expected to advance.
Funding debate to continue
However, Democratic lawmakers likely will continue to push for more funding to combat opioid misuse in the United States.
Pallone said, "We need to hold Republicans' feet to the fire" on funding, noting that the legislation "is only a small step at a time when Americans need us to run."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she hopes the bill "is just the first step" and that Republican lawmakers will allocate more funding "in the very, very near future" (Ross Johnson, Modern Healthcare, 7/8; Demirjian, Washington Post, 7/10; Ferris , The Hill, 7/8; Ferris , The Hill, 7/8; American Health Line, 7/8 [subscription required]; Demirjian, Washington Post, 7/10; Siddons, CQ News, 7/8 [subscription required]).
Beyond fighting addiction: Reducing opioid prescriptions could cut millions in avoidable costs at your institution
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