West Virginia Congressional delegation urges HHS to change opioid treatment policy

West Virginia Congressional delegation urges HHS to change opioid treatment policy

In a letter sent Sept. 18, the West Virginia Congressional delegation has asked U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma to take immediate action to reverse CMS’s interpretation of the SUPPORT act.

U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), along with U.S. Reps. David McKinley (R-WV), Alex Mooney (R-WV), and Carol Miller (R-WV), said CMS’s interpretation of the SUPPORT Act would shift financial responsibility to states and negatively impact patients’ ability to get treatment for opioid addiction.

According to the delegation, the SUPPORT Act, signed into law in 2018, ensured Medicaid beneficiaries have access to medication-assisted therapy to treat opioid addiction. But, the delegation said, CMS has interpreted that to mean that states would be required to pay for the costs of the MAT.

“Section 1006(b) of the SUPPORT Act was intended to address the fact that several states were not covering all forms of MAT with a five-year coverage mandate. The provision sought to ensure Medicaid beneficiaries retained access to office-based MAT and that all states also covered care delivered by opioid treatment programs (OTPs), such as methadone clinics,” the delegation wrote in the letter. “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and its Office of General Counsel have conveyed to stakeholders that Sec. 1006(b) requires state Medicaid programs to not only ensure coverage of methadone in OTPs as well as office-based MAT but that they do so without the financial support ordinarily received from manufacturers in the form of statutory and supplemental Medicaid rebates. We have assured health system leaders in our states that Congress did not intend to simultaneously increase state coverage obligations and reduce Medicaid revenue sources.”

The delegation said the interpretation could result in treatment interruptions or discontinuations.

“The SUPPORT Act was intended to facilitate resolution of the opioid use epidemic. We must ensure no actions are taken that would unnecessarily impede movement towards that goal, especially now as we face both this and the COVID-19 pandemic,” the delegation wrote.