As Congress Focuses on Current Crisis, Another One Looms

The novel coronavirus pandemic has affected Americans across the country. As stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders force Americans to stay inside, patients are being encouraged to delay elective surgical procedures during this trying time. To combat this crisis, Congress has already passed trillions of dollars of federal legislation designed to aid workers, families, and health professionals. Just last week, Congress passed a $2 trillion economic stimulus package that was centered on sending payments to Americans. After passing the legislation, Congress announced that they would themselves shut the doors for a few weeks. Upon their return, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-NY) has announced that Congress will consider a fourth coronavirus response package to continue to provide aid to those who need it. With all this justified focus on the current pandemic, let’s not forget another public health emergency that our country is dealing with – the opioid addiction epidemic. As you know, millions of Americans misuse opioids and are first exposed to opioids following an elective surgical procedure. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced guidance recommending individual’s delay these procedures until the current threat diminishes. We remain concerned about what happens when this backlog of surgeries eventually take place. Specifically, we worry that there may soon be a significant increase of opioids into our homes and communities. An unintended consequence of this current epidemic is that, by forcing Americans to stay at home, many who struggle with addiction are left without access to the support services they need. Additionally, the stress of the current public health epidemic could, we fear, lead to remission for many Americans and being at home, where there could be unused narcotics is extremely dangerous for these individuals. This is especially true for the 23 million Americans in recovery. This is why we need to make sure that patients have access to non-opioid pain management therapies. These patients, who are currently waiting to have a surgery, deserve choices in how they manage their pain. Unfortunately, arcane reimbursement policies limit patient choices and often times default to the lowest-cost treatment option, which are generic opioids. The Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation Act (“NOPAIN Act”) would give patients and providers choices in how they manage postsurgical pain. This federal legislation would give health care professionals the tools they need to treat pain patients with the waterfront of available, safe, and effective pain treatment options. Now, more than ever, we need this piece of federal legislation enacted. Let’s work together to make sure the NOPAIN Act gets enacted and helps protect us from allowing this crisis to exacerbate another one.
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