CMS releases guidance to states on using Medicaid to address opioid crisis

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Monday released guidance aimed at helping states leverage Medicaid to combat the opioid epidemic.

Specifically, the guidance focused on information related to covering services for infants born exposed to opioids and how to enhance federal funding for telemedicine and programs that keep tabs on patients’ prescriptions.

The opioid epidemic has caught the attention of both lawmakers and administration officials, both of which are working to combat a growing crisis that has shown no signs of slowing down.


“The number of American infants born dependent on opioids each day is heartbreaking,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said in a press release.

“Today’s announcement reflects the Trump Administration and HHS’s commitment to helping states use Medicaid to support treatment for this condition and other challenges produced by our country’s crisis of opioid addiction.”

From 2000 to 2012, there was a nearly five-fold increase in the number of infants born exposed to drugs. This is a “significant and rapidly growing public health concern,” the information bulletin states.

CMS says that Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans, can help infants access treatment. States may also cover addiction treatment services for the parent, if they’re eligible for Medicaid, at the same time the infant is being treated.

Additionally, bolstering health information technology has been viewed as an important way to help address the opioid crisis, which is contributing to an estimated 115 American deaths per day.

CMS advised state Medicaid directors on funding opportunities to boost these efforts.  

“State-level innovation, including in the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and electronic health records, has been and will be a key piece of ending this crisis,” Azar said in the release.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the House is set to vote on a slate of bills beginning this week, and senators and Senate committees have also been hammering out their own legislation.

Tags Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Guidance HHS Opioid crisis

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