The SUPPORT Act and the Role of Telehealth

19 Jun 2019 - Kila Hancock

In October of 2018, the House of Representatives passed a piece of legislation called the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6). The act is aimed at combatting the opioid epidemic that has plagued the United States since the late 1990s. Although ineffective until 2021, these efforts signal a focus on addiction as a disease rather than deviance.

The SUPPORT Act features three areas of focus—education, standardization of care, and expanding coverage.

Education

Provisions regarding education were designed for both care providers and patients. Section 3212 will require the Department of Health and Human Services to train and empower pharmacists to take action when faced with a fraudulent prescription for a controlled substance. On the patient side, Section 6021 states that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services must educate beneficiaries on opioid use along with alternative methods of pain management.

Standardization

As far as standardization goes, the SUPPORT act focuses on using evidence-based practices that are easily replicable to ensure consistent and appropriate care. For example, Section 6032 states that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services must “develop an action plan… to enhance the treatment and prevention of opioid addiction” in addition to developing affordable medication-assisted treatment plans. Having a thorough, practical model to follow will make it easier to guarantee that controlled substances are administered appropriately and those who misuse them are able to get the help they need.

Affordable

Lastly, the SUPPORT act focuses on making care more available and affordable under Medicare/Medicaid. One of the most controversial provisions of the act is Section 5052 which allocates federal funds to mental health services for people under the age of 65. Formerly, only individuals aged 65 or older were eligible for federally funded mental health care. Arguments against this provision are centered around the cost, while supporters deem it necessary to decrease the chance of substance abuse as a result of mental health issues. Another effort to expand coverage is Section 1007 which allows state Medicaid programs to cover the care of infants who are born addicted to opioids.

You Mentioned Telehealth?

One of the more interesting aspects of the SUPPORT Act is the acknowledgement of the increasing role of telehealth. Once this law is in action, state Medicaid programs will be eligible for federal reimbursement for care delivered by telehealth. As a way to encourage digital records-keeping to avoid fraudulent or other misuse of opiod subscriptions for example, doctors will be sending prescriptions for opioids to pharmacies electronically instead of giving a paper copy to the patient. However, the law opens up the door to other services billed to Medicaid, delievered electronically.

Jot Health is enriching existing patient provider relationships with digital tools targeting quality of care. Legislation like the SUPPORT Act will continue to play a role in how this care is delivered, perceived, and paid for as modes of treatment evolve.

References:

https://www.asam.org/advocacy/the-support-for-patients-and-communities-act-(h.r.-6)

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/6

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1813961

https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/federal-legislation-to-address-the-opioid-crisis-medicaid-provisions-in-the-support-act/