Health advocates including doctors and governors are calling on Congress to lift a rule that bars Medicaid from being used for funding care for opioid addiction.
Legislators are discussing at least partially lifting the restrictions in opioid legislation that could make it to the House floor by Memorial Day, The Hill reported Wednesday.
Removing the limitation could help thousands, but could cost in the tens of billions over a decade, and lawmakers note that spending would be a challenge.
“If you can draw me a straight line that this stems the tide of what we’re seeing… I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘Hey, count me out,'” said Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, according to The Hill.
The change in the rule would allow access to treatment facility beds for more people, lifting limits that bar Medicaid from paying for treatment at facilities that have more than 16 beds.
The rule was put in place to prevent loading large institutions with people with mental health disorders, and is seen as an “arcane federal policy,” by the National Governors Association, the report said.
“That exclusion is years old, and the world’s a different place today, and it does interfere with being able to treat the number of people who need to be treated,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, in The Hill.
“There’s obviously a cost associated with it, and that’s kind of been the stumbling block… we’re smart people, we’ll work on that,” Burgess added.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he would push for language in the Senate’s opioid bill package to pay for addiction services at centers that have fewer than 40 beds, The Hill reported.
The legislation has bipartisan support and a companion bill in the House, the report said.
Rep. Burgess also addressed the opioid crisis on Tuesday:
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