Reprinted with permission from the Times Union
WASHINGTON, DC– A massive bipartisan opioids bill working its way through Congress includes a measure on Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage authored by Congressman John Faso (R-19th).
Rep. Faso’s bill, the Medicare Opioid Safety Education Act of 2018, would require the Department of Health and Human Services to include warnings about opioids and alternative options for pain relief in “Medicare and You,” the online introduction to Medicare that seniors view when signing up.
By itself, the bill is a modest step forward in a drug-addiction crisis that took 72,000 lives nationwide in 2017, 12 percent higher than 2016. Opioid addiction takes the lives of 115 a day, according to one estimate.
But in a tight race to win a second term representing New York’s Hudson Valley-based 19th Congressional District, the Kinderhook Republican is determined to demonstrate he is a results-oriented bipartisan player on Capitol Hill.
“I count this as an accomplishment,” Rep. Faso said in an interview Tuesday with the Times Union. “I’m definitely of point of view that we’re sent here to get things done and not to argue and look for debating points.”
His Democratic opponent, Anthony Delgado, is hitting Rep. Faso for his vote last year to terminate the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare.
Congressman Faso at the time said his vote was justified by GOP inclusion of his measure to end New York state’s requirement that counties chip in for the part of Medicaid financing borne by the state.
He portrays himself as a “center-right” nonideological Republican, pointing to his vote against the GOP tax bill late last year because it would severely limit deductions for state income and local property tax payments that New Yorkers depend on.
But if a “blue-wave” election is indeed shaping up over voter disenchantment with Donald Trump and the many controversies surrounding his presidency, Rep. Faso may find it difficult to stay afloat no matter his positions on individual issues.
The overall bill, the Opioid Crisis Response Act, passed the Senate late Monday, September 17, on a vote of 99-1. It must be voted on again by the House before the president signs it into law. That vote could come next week, Rep. Faso said.
The bill’s main features are the STOP Act, aimed at ending the flow of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids into the United States. Other aspects would require drug companies to disclose payments to health-care professionals other than doctors, more research funding for nonaddictive painkiller alternatives, and stepped-up monitoring of opioid prescriptions to prevent “doctor shopping.”
Rep. Faso said his Medicare Part D proposal is aimed at helping seniors understand the threat they face in treatment when doctors prescribe opioids for pain relief. The warning in “You and Medicare” (available on Medicare.gov) would also come with information on alternative treatments.
Rep. Faso said he was “shocked” to hear that 30 percent of prescriptions written under Medicare Part D were for opioids.
“That’s a big number,” he said. “The potential for abuse is not just among the young and middle aged, but the elderly as well.”
New York ranks 22nd among states with an opioid overdose death rate of 15.1 per 100,000 population, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.