Telehealth to Help Combat Opioid Epidemic

Several bipartisan bills introduced by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)  a member of the Senate Finance Committee, focus on using telehealth to combat the opioid epidemic. The first of Senator Carper’s bills, “Medicaid Substance Use Disorder Treatment via Telehealth Act” (S.2904), would require CMS to issue guidance to streamline, improve, and increase the use of telehealth in Medicaid to treat substance and opioid abuse.

This legislation would treat substance and opioid abuse particularly among children, adult populations under the age of 40, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and children receiving services in school-based health centers.

The “Electronic Prior Authorization in Medicare Part D Act” (S.2908) also introduced by Senator Carper and Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) although not specific to the use of telehealth, would improve and increase the use of electronic prior authorizations used in Medicare Part D. This would make it easier for providers to use the updated system to fill prescriptions for patients with specific needs.

Help is needed since as Senator Carper explained, “Delaware doctors in 2015 wrote nearly 800,000 prescriptions for opioid pain relievers, which amounts to 80 prescriptions for every 100 persons. This legislation would enable patients to receive faster access to alternatives to opioid medications for chronic and acute pain and provide for improved access to medication-assisted treatment to treat opiate addiction.”

Other SUD Senate focused telehealth bills include legislation led by Senators Thune (R-SD), along with other co-sponsors, titled the “Expanding Telehealth Response to Ensure Addition Treatment (eTREAT) Act” (2901). This legislation would expand the use of telehealth to treat SUDs by eliminating certain originating site restrictions found in the Social Security Act.

Lastly, the “Telehealth for Children’s Access to Services and Treatment Act” (TeleCAST) led by Senator Roberts, would provide access to services and treatment for SUDs via telehealth and remote patient monitoring for pediatric populations under Medicaid.

Go to for details on the bills introduced and the actions taken to move the bills forward.

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