Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment

Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators want Congress' final opioids package to lift a decades-old restriction on Medicaid funding for substance abuse treatment.

Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWANTED: A Republican with courage Companies warn Trump trade war is about to hit consumers Lawmakers grapple with the future of America's workforce MORE (R-Ohio), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOn The Money: GOP angst grows over Trump's trade war | Trump promises help for 'Patriot Farmers' | Markets rebound | CBO founding director Alice Rivlin dies | Senate to vote on disaster aid bill next week Senators offer bipartisan retirement savings bill Top Finance Dem offers bill to help those repaying student loans save for retirement MORE (D-Md.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinLet's stop treating student borrowers like second-class citizens Trump's immigration push faces Capitol Hill buzzsaw Hillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group MORE (D-Ill.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownLawmakers grapple with the future of America's workforce The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate On The Money: Mnuchin signals officials won't release Trump tax returns | Trump to hold off on auto tariffs | WH nears deal with Mexico, Canada on metal tariffs | GOP fears trade war fallout for farmers | Warren, regulator spar over Wells Fargo MORE (D-Ohio) introduced a proposal Tuesday to allow states to use Medicaid money to pay for coverage at addiction treatment facilities for people with diagnosed substance use disorders for up to 90 consecutive days — something prohibited under federal Medicaid law.

"This new legislation represents a thoughtful, bipartisan solution that will expand access to treatment while targeting the cost, and we will push for its inclusion in the final House-Senate opioid package," Portman said in a statement.

The House and Senate are resolving the differences between their two opioid packages before holding a vote on the new bill and sending it to the president.

Lifting these funding restrictions is a contentious issue for Congress as it deals with the nation's growing opioid crisis.

Supporters say it would expand access to treatment for those with substance use disorders - many of whom use Medicaid.

But opponents worry about the cost, and say the money could used more wisely in other ways that address the epidemic.

Current federal law bans the use of Medicaid funding for inpatient, residential treatment facilities with more than 16 beds. This provision was included in the law when Medicaid was passed in 1965 and was aimed at preventing the warehousing of mentally ill people in large institutions.

But the science of addiction treatment has improved over the past decade, and now the restrictions pose a barrier to people who need inpatient services, advocates argue.

Portman's bill would "tear down the walls keeping people from recovery," said Dr. Kelly Clark with the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

"It's letting us practice addiction medicine the way we know is appropriate."

The opioids packaged passed by the House earlier this summer partially repeals these restrictions for fiscal years 2019 through 2023 for Medicaid beneficiaries aged 21 to 64 with opioid use disorders.

The Senate package passed Tuesday didn't include a repeal of the restrictions.

But Portman said he will push to have his bill included in the final bill that comes out of the conference with the House.