Congressman Buchanan Introduces Comprehensive Legislation to Address Opioid Crisis Including Ability for Mental Health Counselors to Bill Medicare

By Joel Miller posted 04-25-2018 16:26


Congressman Vern Buchanan (R-FL) announced at a news conference that he is proposing to introduce the Opioid Emergency Response Act. The proposed measure is a combination of seven different bills that have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to address the opioid epidemic, focusing on research, prescribing alternative medications, and expanding seniors' access to treatment by allowing mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists (MFTs) to bill Medicare for care provided to Americans over the age of 65. The press release on this announcement has not been issued by the Congressman’s office, but expected in the coming days.

AMHCA has been working closely with Rep. Buchanan’s office on this new measure to address elements of the opioid crisis including the integration of H.R. 3032 (see link below) – our Medicare Provider Recognition bill.

Please contact your Representative in the House to express support for both H.R. 5531 and H.R. 3032.  The overall text for H.R. 5531 (see link below) has not been posted yet, but likely will be available the week of April 23rd.

As part of this legislation to meld several bills into one overarching package to address the opioid crisis, Rep. Buchanan has included H.R. 3032 – “The Mental Health Access Improvement Act”, introduced by Rep. John Katko (R-NY) that will expand seniors’ access to treatment by allowing clinical mental health counselors and MFTs to join Medicare.

Several news outlets in Florida have reported on Rep. Buchanan’s news conference and please see the link below.

The seven bills included in the Opioid Emergency Response Act are:

  • The Alternatives to Opioids Prescribing Act, a separate bill sponsored by Rep. Buchanan to reduce opioid use among Medicare patients in hospital emergency departments by incentivizing alternatives such as a high-dose combination of Tylenol and Advil, which studies have shown could achieve the same pain-reducing result as low-dose opioids.


  • R. 3032, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act, introduced by Rep. John Katko (R-NY) that will expand seniors’ access to treatment by allowing clinical mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to bill Medicare for services rendered to seniors.
  • R. 4733, the Opioids and STOP Pain Initiative Act, introduced by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) that will provide additional resources to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research pain, addiction, and non-opioid treatments for several medical conditions.
  • 788, the Veteran Overmedication Prevention Act, introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that will require the Veterans Administration (VA) to study the link between prescription opioids and an alarmingly high rate of suicides among veterans.

We are encouraged by Rep. Buchanan’s leadership on these issues as he is a high-ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee and serves on its Health Subcommittee.  The Committee has major jurisdiction on Medicare and Medicaid financing.

In addition to upcoming legislative action by Rep. Buchanan – Rep. Katko, AMHCA and the Medicare Access Coalition continue to press Congress to pass the “Mental Health Access Improvement Act” as a separate measure or part of other behavioral health related bills introduced this year.

We are looking at all legislative vehicles to pass a Medicare Provider Recognition Bill for clinical mental health counselors.

#AdvocacyUpdates #Advocacy #Medicare #OpiodCrisis



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