Press Release

December 27, 2016
Cardin Praises CMS Waiver for Streamlining Treatment of Substance Abuse Patients

BALTIMORE – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, praised action by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) granting Maryland’s 1115 waiver to implement initiatives to address substance use disorders. The waiver also makes dental services available to former foster youth, continues the evidence based home visiting program for at risk pregnant women and children, and implements the Assistance in Community Integration services pilot program. As noted by, “Section 1115 of the Social Security Act gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services authority to approve experimental, pilot, or demonstration projects that promote the objectives of the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs.”

“This is great news for the state of Maryland and a first step to addressing prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. Now individuals enrolled in Medicaid will have access to residential treatment for substance use disorders. This type of treatment is essential to individuals seeking recovery,” said Senator Cardin.  “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to overcoming addiction and expanding opportunities for treatment will help us tackle this urgent problem. Addiction is a disease and now we have one of the necessary tools to help individuals with recovery. Those suffering from substance use disorders also need access to mental health services. That is why I will continue to push for access to mental health services.” 

Senator Cardin added: “Our goal has long been to ensure that individuals in crisis are treated like patients, and not warehoused or — as is too often the case — ignored. By working with the states, the federal government remains a partner in saving lives and scarce resources.

“I am also pleased that CMS is allowing Maryland to expand available children’s dental services and assistance for pregnant women and some of our communities’ most vulnerable. Despite being largely preventable, tooth decay is the single most common chronic health condition among children and adolescents in the United States. Left untreated, it can not only destroy a child’s teeth, but also has a debilitating impact on his or her health and quality of life.”

This summer, Senator Cardin and his colleagues wrote to Andy Slavitt, Acting CMS Administrator, urging the agency to ensure patient access to treatment by addressing the IMD Exclusion for SUDs. The Medicaid “Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) Exclusion” prohibits federal financial participation through Medicaid for any care furnished to patients 22-64 years old in a mental health or addiction treatment facility with more than 16 beds. 

Per the letter, “this policy was created in 1965, but improved medical understandings of addiction and the recent ICD-10 classification of substance use disorders as a behavioral health disorder demand a change to this outdated policy.  The growing burden of the heroin and prescription opioid crisis adds to the urgency to address this carrier to care, considering that, according to CMS, Medicaid beneficiaries are prescribed painkillers at twice the rate of non-Medicaid patients and are at three-to-six times the risk of prescription painkiller overdose.”