What you need to know about Trump’s new bill: SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 – President Donald Trump signed a new bill aimed at curbing the American opioid crisis.

The bill is known as the Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act. Or more eloquently, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act and focuses on expanding coverage to those suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD).

Addressing the media from his desk at the Oval Office, President Trump qouted the legislation as the “single largest bill to combat the drug crisis in the history of our country.”

The bipartisan package intends to do the following:

1. Reduce Use and Supply. Implementation of the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, or STOP Act, will crack down on the import of deadly narcotics through the mail. Policies will allow the Postal Service to collect e-data on all packages entering the United States at its border. This echoes Trump’s plan to stop “ultra-lethal drugs like fentanyl from being trafficked throughout our mail.”
2. Encourage Recovery. Provisions within the SUPPORT Act extend backing to the states as well as Native Americans in hopes of tackling substance use disorders (SUD). And in effort to expand access to community resources, this bill encourages the use of telemedicine and other online health tools. Programs like prescription buyback centers and recovery housing services are also highlighted.
3. Support Caregivers and Families. Other provisions provide grants to hospitals and pediatric wings in attempts to add support for babies exposed to substance use prenatally. Additional support for family and youth education programs will help foster far-reaching awareness.
4. Drive Innovation and Long-Term Solutions. Now, it’s time to pump some money into R&D. The SUPPORT Act will speed up the development of non-addictive painkillers and other cutting-edge addiction treatments. As well, insurance companies will be required to maintain parity when it comes to a member’s mental health and substance use disorder benefits.

The passing of the SUPPORT Act is in response to the growing opioid epidemic – something President Trump declared as a public health emergency earlier in his presidency.

Wednesday’s ceremony marks a collective milestone for Capitol Hill as both Republicans and Democrats showed overwhelming support for the bill. In a show of solidarity, Congress amassed more than $6 billion in federal funding to put an “extremely big dent in this terrible, terrible problem.”

President Trump applauded both parties yesterday at the White House on this rare bipartisan victory. And a theme of togetherness echoed through the press’ microphones.

The highly-scrutinized official stated that, “Together we will defeat this epidemic… as one people, one family, and one magnificent nation under God.”

Overall, the SUPPORT Act will implement significant changes in how Medicaid and Medicare cover addiction treatment. However, this bill doesn’t only expand the scope of addiction treatment for federally-funded patients. With pricing models often dictated by Medicaid and Medicare analytics, it’s only time before your commercial insurance provider takes notice.

Commercial insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, and Cigna are required to follow The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008.

This is a federal law that requires your health plan to cover mental health and substance use (MH/SU) programs on par with other medical and surgical procedures. In other words, your health insurance provider must apply the same level of coverage to your addiction treatment as they would with any comparable medical treatment.

Seems fair, right?

At Stonegate Center, we work with most insurance providers on an in-network and out-of-network basis. Prior to enrolling in our program, we encourage you to look at your health plan. Yes, they’ll probably put you on hold. But, call your insurance carrier and have them detail the ins-and-outs of addiction treatment coverage.

Make sure there are no discrepancies or restrictions between your MH/SU and medical benefits. This is most often expressed by exorbitant financial requirements (e.g. deductibles and copays) as well as harsh treatment limitations (e.g. number of visits or days of coverage).

If you feel you have been unjustly discriminated or restricted in regards to your treatment, please contact your health insurance provider for an appeal. Otherwise, contact the following resources:

Texas Department of Insurance
US Department of Health and Human Services: Complaints and Appeals
National Association of Insurance Commissioners: Consumer Information Source

If those attempts are unsuccessful, please escalate to the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) – an organization which measures and accredits insurance health plans.

We’re looking forward to joining with you to “end the scourge of drug addiction in America.”

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John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction as well as the pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center’s status at the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content creation. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.

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