As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and a senior member and former chairman of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Senator Hatch was selected to serve on the conference committee to finalize the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act bills passed in the House and Senate.
Senator Hatch also won inclusion of several provisions that will directly affect to his home state of Utah.
Speaking before the conference committee, Hatch described the effect opioids have had on Utah. He said, “This is an epidemic that is devastating individuals, families, and communities across the country. My home state of Utah has been particularly hard hit. In 2014 alone, 289 Utahns died due to opioid abuse, which was more than half of all drug-overdose related deaths in the state for that year.”
In addition to the Medicare and medication-assisted treatment provisions referenced in the Senator’s remarks below, one of the key provisions Hatch won inclusion of will protect infants born to mothers suffering from opioid addiction. In December, Reuters reported that a child is born dependent on opioids every 19 minutes. According to a Utah Health Status Update released in July 2013, between 2009 and 2012, 1,476 Utah mothers were reported to have used illicit drugs during pregnancy. As a result, 29.5 percent of babies born to these mothers tested positive for illicit drugs at birth — approximately 109 babies per year. The amendment strengthens the existing plan of safe care for infants born and identified as being affected by substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms, as well as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
To view a copy of the Joint Explanatory Statement of the conference committee, click here.
Senator Hatch’s remarks at the conference hearing are below.
I am glad to see that Senate and House are coming together to tackle the very important issue of opioid abuse, and I am pleased to serve as a conferee.
This is an epidemic that is devastating individuals, families, and communities across the country.
My home state of Utah has been particularly hard hit.
In 2014 alone, 289 Utahns died due to opioid abuse, which was more than half of all drug-overdose related deaths in the state for that year.
Through a series of bipartisan votes in both chambers, we are now poised to take action on a conference agreement that the American people want and deserve.
I was pleased to vote for the Senate CARA bill when it was reported out of the Judiciary Committee and when it passed by a vote of 94-1 on the Senate floor.
I commend Senator Portman, who worked for years alongside Senator Whitehouse, for his leadership on CARA. I must also recognize Senator Ayotte, as she has long been a true champion of this issue as well.
Speaking as the Chairman of the Finance Committee, I am pleased that this agreement provides Medicare with an important tool in the fight against opioid abuse.
The agreement allows Medicare Part D prescription drug plans to work with at-risk beneficiaries to identify one physician to prescribe opioids and one pharmacy to fill all the opioid prescriptions.
This is a common sense step that will improve patient care and reduced abuse; it also makes it more likely that beneficiaries with a problem get the help they need.
I commend Senator Toomey, who worked with Senator Brown, for his leadership on this issue.
The agreement also increases access to medication assisted treatment. I am proud of my past work on this issue and appreciate the improvement made by this agreement.
While many would have liked to see a more expansive policy change, it is critical that we pay for any increase in spending in our already unsustainable Medicare and Medicaid programs. This agreement enables us to stay true to that principle.
Let me conclude by saying that this is how the legislative process is supposed to work. Both chambers pass a bipartisan bill. A conference committee resolves the differences.
Let’s pass this conference agreement to demonstrate that Congress works, and, more importantly, to deliver results for the American people.