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House subcommittee pushes out (approximately) 56 opioid-related bills 

In a sign that Congress is serious, or at least wishes to be thought serious, on the well-publicized subject of opioid abuse, the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee this week pushed forward 57 bills, 56 of which they say are "focused on ways to help combat the opioid crisis," to the full committee, the Subcommittee announced on April 25. 

35 of the bills were passed by voice votes, so no one had to go on record; 13 were passed un bloc (together, in a concurrent motion), and nine by roll call, the Subcommittee reports.

The bills, most of which are as yet unnumbered, "will improve access to care for individuals suffering from substance use disorder, provide our health care system with tools and resources it needs to care for patients, and help prevent future misuse of opioids," claimed Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-Texas).

Some of the bills the Subcommittee lists do not have an apparent connection to opioids -- for example, the Medicaid Graduate Medical Education Transparency Act doesn't refer to these drugs at all -- but others clearly do. The Incentivizing Non-Opioid Drugs bill, for example, announces that it will offer hospital outpatient departments and ambulatory surgery centers an additional payment for "eligible non-opioid analgesics as part of a covered OPD [outpatient department] service" to cover the extra cost of the non-opioid alternative. 

Other bills would require prescription drug plan sponsors under the Medicare program to establish drug management programs for at-risk beneficiaries, require HHS to provide for "an action plan on recommendations for changes under Medicare and Medicaid to prevent opioids addictions and enhance access to medication assisted treatment," etc.

Democrats have complained that some of their proposed opioid bills were excluded from the fast track treatment by the Republican-controlled Subcommittee. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), for example, griped to the Washington Examiner that her proposed bill to allow "mothers of... opioid-addicted babies to get birth control access" was tabled. Democrats also complained the vote-a-rama prevented them from carefully considering the bills before they were advanced. 

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