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Mooney says PROP Act would help curb drug addiction

June 9, 2016
In The News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill that would take pressure off doctors who prescribe narcotic pain medications to patients at hospitals is being discussed in Congress.


On Wednesday, West Virginia Second District Congressman Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) discussed the Promoting Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP) Act to the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives.

Mooney introduced the measure in February. The U.S. Senate version of the bill was introduced in April by U.S. Senate by senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).

The change would remove a provision of the Affordable Care Act that places pressure on physicians to prescribe narcotics to patients regardless of whether the patient actually needs it, Mooney said.

“The simple change would reduce access to narcotic pain medication for patients who do not need it, thereby reducing the risk of addiction,” Mooney said.

Although the House has already taken steps to address the nationwide drug epidemic, Mooney said much more needs to be done.

“My home state of West Virginia has the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the country — more than double the national average,” he said. “This drug abuse epidemic is a tragedy crying out for action.”

According to data Mooney provided from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people who abuse opioid pain killers are 19 times more likely to start using heroin than people who do not abuse those pain killers.

Mooney said a group of Charleston doctors brought the issue to his attention. He said, when treating pain, doctors were faced with a dilemma — either prescribe narcotics to patients who did not need them or risk receiving a low patient satisfaction score and a subsequent cut to their reimbursement rates.

When the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2010, it put in place “paid for performance provisions” that use results from the patient survey called the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) which is meant to calculate medicare reimbursement rates for physicians and hospitals on “quality measures.”

Mooney said the survey includes three questions related to pain management. One question asks whether patients feel that their caretakers did “everything they could to help” with pain.

“While these questions are clearly intended to help patients, doctors tell me that these questions pressure the doctors to overuse prescription pain narcotics when treating patients,” Mooney said.

The PROP Act would remove all three questions from the HCAHPS survey only when the Centers for Medicine and Medicaid Services is conducting reimbursement analysis, Mooney said. However, the patient will still answer those pain management questions in the survey so hospitals can monitor how they’re doing.

“CMS is fully able to implement the PROP Act,” Mooney said. “The agency has already provided my staff and this committee with technical assistance on the bill.”

Several other organizations have also supported the bill, Mooney said.