Beacon Health Options (Beacon), a leading managed behavioral health organization, applauds the passage of the landmark, bipartisan legislation, H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which was signed into law Wednesday, Oct. 24. Americans in every corner of our country have been hit hard by our nation’s opioid crisis. The devastation of this epidemic affects all communities – large and small, rich and poor, urban and suburban, and has had tremendous personal, family, occupational and societal costs. This law takes an important step toward real solutions for so many struggling with substance use disorder (SUD).
Beacon is a leading voice in identifying effective solutions to reduce addiction and overdose deaths and as such is particularly pleased that the following important programs and reforms were included in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act:
- A federal ban on patient brokering: This provision makes kickbacks for referrals to SUD treatment illegal and subject to substantial criminal and civil penalties, regardless of participation in governmental health care program.
- Partial repeal of the “IMD exclusion”: This provision partially lifts the ban on use of federal Medicaid program funding for SUD treatment at facilities that are an institute for mental disease (IMD) with more than 16 beds (commonly known as the “IMD exclusion”). Under the provision, Medicaid programs may pay for care at an IMD facility for up to 30 days of residential SUD treatment annually per beneficiary, regardless of severity of diagnosis.
- Best Practices for Recovery Residences: This provision provides for the identification and development of best practices for recovery housing (also known as “sober homes” or “recovery residences”), including model laws for implementing suggested minimum standards.
- Survey of MHPAEA efficacy: Beacon is a longstanding supporter of behavioral health parity. This provision calls for an analysis of the implementation and enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). MHPAEA is designed to ensure that patient’s health insurance benefits for mental health and SUD services are comparable to those for medical and surgical services.
- CAREER Act: The CAREER Act provides a grant program to incentivize initiatives that support individuals in SUD treatment and recovery to live independently and participate in the workforce.
- Telehealth: In addition to expanding access to SUD treatment to Medicare beneficiaries via telehealth services, the law also directs CMS to issue guidance to states on options for providing services via telehealth that address SUDs under Medicaid, including for federal reimbursement of services addressing high-risk individuals, for provider education, and for telehealth services to students in school-based health centers.
- MAT Prescribing Expansions: The law expands access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which Beacon and other experts consider the gold standard of opioid use disorder treatment.
Beacon Health Options looks forward to working with Congress and the Administration to build on this legislative achievement. We know more work needs to be done to help the millions of Americans living with substance use disorder.