29 providers call on CMS to provide opioid alternatives

Twenty-nine healthcare providers are urging CMS to provide alternatives to opioids and incentivize non-opioid use.

In a letter to the agency, the providers said CMS could use the 2024 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System to increase access to non-opioid pain management but that the proposed rule "misses this opportunity." The letter notes that decisions of pain management are not made by patients or physicians, despite many pushing for more options.

"Medicare reimbursement policy clearly continues to prioritize opioid-based pain approaches above all others," the letter said.

The providers point to a separate payment for administration of non-opioid pain management that was given in 2019 to ambulatory surgery center settings. After the rule went into effect, non-opioid pain management increased by 120 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to the letter. 

The number of prescription opioid pain pills shipments plummeted nearly 45 percent between 2011 and 2019. However, fatal overdoses rose to a record high in 2021 — surpassing 100,000 that year, The Washington Post reported Sept. 12. In most places, people become addicted after receiving opioid prescriptions before moving on to cheaper, more easily accessible synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and heroin, according to data cited by the Post

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