Press Release

July 27, 2022
Cardin, Collins Introduce Bill to Improve Seniors’ Access to Substance Use Treatment

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Supporting Seniors with Opioid Use Disorder Act of 2022. The bipartisan legislation would implement recommendations from a 2021 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that found Medicare beneficiaries face challenges accessing opioid use disorder treatment.

“There is no simple answer for ending the opioid epidemic, but we must use every resource available and maximize every opportunity to help those in need,” said Senator Cardin. “Our bill builds on the success of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, by supporting seniors with opioid use disorder and working to understand and reduce disparities in access to substance use disorder treatment. Continuing to engage Medicare beneficiaries in familiar places and increase awareness of treatment options and resources will help save lives.”

“The opioid epidemic continues to claim the lives of far too many people, with a record number of both Mainers and Americans lost in 2021. While many perceive the face of opioid addiction as young, the epidemic harms older adults as well. In Maine, more than 10 percent of drug overdose deaths last year were among residents age 60 and older,” said Senator Collins. “Our bipartisan bill would increase seniors’ awareness of, and access to, opioid use disorder treatment covered by the Medicare program. I urge my colleagues to support the adoption of this legislation that would support seniors suffering from opioid use disorder and improve our understanding of potential disparities in treatment.”

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the increased prevalence of fentanyl, have aggravated the national opioid crisis. Even before COVID-19, however, the number of people age 55 or older treated in emergency rooms for non-fatal opioid overdoses was increasing, with a shocking 32 percent jump in ER visits from 2016 to 2017.

In December 2021, HHS OIG published a report exploring whether Medicare beneficiaries with opioid use disorder received treatment. It found more than one million Medicare beneficiaries were diagnosed with opioid use disorder in 2020, yet, shockingly, fewer than 16 percent of those patients received medication to treat their opioid use disorder. The report also concluded older beneficiaries were three times less likely to receive medication for treatment than younger beneficiaries. Even fewer beneficiaries received both medication and behavioral therapy.

The Supporting Seniors with Opioid Use Disorder Act of 2022 would implement recommendations made by HHS OIG regarding how to improve beneficiaries’ awareness of Medicare coverage for OUD treatment and how to identify current gaps and opportunities to better meet the needs of this unique population.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to conduct additional outreach to beneficiaries to increase awareness about Medicare coverage for the treatment of opioid use disorder;
  • Provide the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) with data about the number of Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with OUD, those receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT), those receiving both MAT and behavioral therapy, and the geographic areas where Medicare beneficiaries remain underserved; and
  • Require HHS to convene a stakeholder meeting to share best practices on the utilization of behavioral therapy among beneficiaries receiving medication to treat opioid use disorder. 

Click HERE to read the bill text.