WASHINGTON – At a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) continued her push to expand access to life-saving medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder in New Hampshire and across the country. Senator Hassan discussed her push to eliminate an outdated requirement, the ‘x-waiver,’ that limits the number of medical practitioners who can prescribe life-saving medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder.
To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.
“Too few individuals who have an opioid use disorder are receiving medication-assisted treatment, which is the gold standard for opioid use disorders,” said Senator Hassan. “Access to treatment is limited by the requirement that providers obtain a special DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] waiver, known as the x-waiver, in order to prescribe buprenorphine. Few providers have opted in to this program, leaving even those patients who have insurance unable to access a provider in-network.”
“Medication-assisted treatment is the single most effective thing we can do, not to just improve treatment, but to save lives,” agreed witness Dr. Andy Keller, President and CEO of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. “Our modeling has shown we can save almost every life if we were to extend it out. The x-waiver is the primary barrier to that because it creates additional hassles that, by the way, those same providers do not have for the prescription of the opioids that cause the addiction.”
Senator Hassan also discussed telehealth for medication-assisted treatment, saying that “because of the pandemic, the federal government lifted restrictions on medication-assisted treatment, allowing patients to receive remote care and take home additional doses of medication.”
Reginald D. Williams II, Vice President for International Health Policy and Practice Innovations at the Commonwealth Fund, added that “We know MAT works, numerous studies have shown us that. The COVID-19 pandemic gave us an opportunity to see how expanded flexibilities and tele-medicine allowed individuals to be screened and put on treatment. The DEA and SAMHSA [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] also made it easier to initiate, maintain MAT and that was a way people were able to access services.”
Last year and following Senator Hassan’s advocacy, the Biden administration removed some requirements that limited health care providers’ ability to prescribe buprenorphine. Senator Hassan is continuing to press for passage of the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act, a bipartisan bill that she reintroduced last year with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), that would fully eliminate this waiver.