House Passes Legislation to Combat Substance Abuse Epidemic: Requires Massachusetts Insurance Plans to Cover Medical Detox

House Speaker Bob DeLeo joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass legislation that increases access to treatment for individuals confronting substance addition and takes significant steps to combat the current epidemic.

The bill seeks to set patients on a path to sustainable recovery by both increasing access to care and improving the standard of care. Under this legislation, all insurance plans in the Commonwealth will cover acute treatment services, clinical stabilization and medical detox for at least ten days, and patients will have access to treatment without having to obtain prior authorization first. Additionally, licensed drug and alcohol counselors will be added to the list of specialists covered to allow these providers to bill insurers for their services.

“This legislation is the first step in quelling the rise in substance addition that is devastating the lives of people across the Commonwealth,” Speaker DeLeo said. “The bill provides the foundation for sustainable improvement by increasing access to care and changing the way we monitor and respond to unprecedented public health crises like the one we’re currently confronting.”

“I’m proud that my colleagues in the House and I were able to pass legislation that will increase opportunities for long-term substance abuse recovery,” said Representative RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere).  “Substance abuse is an issue that hits home for many families.  Often times, people with addiction are stigmatized and are not able to receive the proper treatment, but it is our hope that with this legislation, people who suffer from substance abuse will be able to receive adequate treatment.”

The legislation expands on efforts taken by the House last year by allowing for the emergency scheduling of substances by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health (DPH).  DPH will now have the authority to temporarily categorize a substance as “schedule I’ on an emergency basis to avoid imminent hazard to public safety or preserve public health. Additionally, this bill authorizes DPH compile a list of prescription drug drop boxes and other safe locations where people will be able to dispose of excess prescription drugs.

To increase oversight and enhance the Commonwealth’s ability to respond to public health problems, this legislation increases the membership of the Drug Formulary Commission (DFC) to include representatives from the Department of Insurance, DPH, Medicaid and chronic pain and addition medicine.  The DFC will also be required to recommend a list of chemically equivalent substitutions for opiates that are less likely to be abused to encourage the prescription of abuse-deterrent medications.

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