A new bill, called the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act, has been introduced to the U.S. Senate and would remove federal limitations on how many patients a certified opiate addiction treatment doctor could treat. This would open doors for more health care providers to treat a larger number of patients with opiate addiction.
“We’ve got a problem when it’s easier for Americans to get heroin than it is for them to get help to break their addiction,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is an original co-sponsor of the bill, at a conference.
Right now, doctors have to meet certain conditions and apply for a special waiver to enable them to prescribe certain opioid addiction medicines. Brown said that “doctors must be substance abuse treatment specialists, as recognized by specific board or society certifications, or nonspecialist physicians must complete approved training and practice in a qualified practice setting.”
In addition, they are limited to treating 30 patients during their first year, and are restricted to treating 100 patients per year afterwards. The new bill is aiming to lift the number of patients in the first year from 30 to 100 and then remove the limit after that. The new legislation would also allow certain nurse practitioners and physician assistants who are already licensed to prescribe controlled substances to treat up to 100 patients per year.
“We have physicians willing or able to treat opiate-addicted patients, but they end up running into caps,” said Jonathan Lee, CEO of Signature Health in Willoughby, who also called the legislation “phenomenal”. He said the problem often occurs because patients that require less care over time still count against the cap, making room for new patients harder to obtain. However, some physicians believe there should still be a cap in place to prevent potential abuse.