U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) Thursday urged Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to examine ways to improve communication among state prescription drug monitoring databases (PDMPs) in order to better prevent opioid overprescribing and identify patients in need of addiction treatment.
“While state PDMPs are important, they have trouble with a group of patients that either live across a border in Michigan, or they’re around the entire U.S. for various reasons,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “Having up-to-date patient information would empower providers to deny inappropriate treatments or recommend addiction treatments to be started based on what they discover.”
Secretary Azar, a Hoosier who was recently sworn in as HHS secretary, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee about President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal for the department.
State PDMPs are electronic databases of prescriptions of controlled substances, including opioids, that help prevent overprescribing and deter drug abuse. However, data-sharing among states is inconsistent.
At a recent subcommittee hearing, Walorski questioned HHS and CMS officials about efforts to identify and prevent fraudulent prescribing practices that fuel the opioid crisis.
Walorski today also asked Secretary Azar to consider an innovative solution to reduce Medicare bad debt claims and help Medicare patients pay their medical bills. In October, she introduced H.R. 3920 to expand the use of interest-free, third-party payment arrangements to improve Medicare patients’ access to care and help ease the financial burden of costly hospital bills.
A transcript of their exchange is below.
REP. WALORSKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Secretary, my fellow Hoosier, it’s good to see you, welcome. I wanted to add my yes and amen to my colleague Representative Paulsen’s comments about opioids, non-opioid alternatives, getting insurance companies to be able to cover these things, and I’ve already heard you out.
For the sake of time, I wanted to mention one other thing that I look forward to discussing with you. The budget proposes reforming Medicare payments related to bad debts. I have a piece of legislation, H.R. 3920, that would require CMS to implement a three-year demonstration program to study the use of interest-free payments under Medicare Part A. I have a hospital in my district that has implemented this concept of interest-free payments and have seen improved patient satisfaction, improved health outcomes, and a reduction of bad debts.
Is that something you’re willing to work with, interest in, trying to come up with that kind of a model?
SEC. AZAR: Sure, I’d be happy to learn more about that, I had not been familiar with that model.
REP. WALORSKI: And my other question is this. A group of doctors in my district have expressed to me the need to fund the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting – it’s called NASPER – program. They feel this program provides them with a complete past medical history regarding prescriptions on controlled medications. While state PDMPs are important, they have trouble with a group of patients that either live across a border in Michigan or they’re around the entire U.S. for various reasons. Having up-to-date patient information would empower providers to deny inappropriate treatments or recommend addiction treatments to be started based on what they discover.
Does funding NASPER help provide funding resources for interoperability between these PDMPs so providers better identify patients at risk for addiction, especially those patients who do not live within a state’s border? Do you have other suggestions on how you think we can empower providers to identify at-risk patients?
SEC. AZAR: So the budget actually does propose requiring the state prescription drug monitoring programs, and I believe there may be something, I want to get back to you on this, around the interoperability across state lines, because that is a vital issue, I just cannot remember but I think there’s something in our budget about that.
REP. WALORSKI: Thank you so much. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Video of Walorski questioning Azar at today’s hearing is available here
Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.