Sinema Bill to Combat Senior Opioid Epidemic Clears Key Hurdle

Sinema’s PASS Act would cut down on overprescribing, help Arizona’s 1.1 million seniors fight opioid addiction

Five times as many seniors are hospitalized for opioid abuse than 20 years ago

A bill co-introduced by Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema to help fight the deadly opioid epidemic among seniors has cleared a key hurdle. The Preventing Addiction for Susceptible Seniors (PASS) Act passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee and may now be considered on the House floor.

“Too many Arizonans know the pain of losing a loved one to a prescription drug overdose,” said Congresswoman Sinema. “We cannot let the opioid crisis continue tearing Arizona families and communities apart. This bill is a needed step to help health care providers crack down on overprescription, fraud, and drug abuse. We’ll keep working until it becomes law."

The opioid epidemic has had dire consequences for people of every age and background, including seniors. In the last two decades, the number of seniors hospitalized for opioid abuse has risen five-fold.

The PASS Act attacks the problem with a multi-pronged approach. Among other provisions, the PASS Act will:

  • Crack down on doctors and providers contributing to the opioid epidemic by requiring insurance companies working within the Medicare Part D system to alert the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS) to doctors who overprescribe opioids.
  • Make it easier for seniors to avoid addiction and manage their prescriptions by expanding the Medication Therapy Management (MTM) program to include Medicare beneficiaries. The MTM program provides counseling that can help reduce the risks of prescription drug abuse.
  • Cut down on overprescribing and educate doctors on appropriate treatments. The bill requires CMS to establish a threshold for ‘outlier prescribers,’ doctors who prescribe amounts of opioids that are outside the norm for their region or specialty. CMS will alert these doctors that they are overprescribing and address any flawed practices.

Other cosponsors of the PASS Act include Reps. Peter Roskam (IL-06), Terri Sewell (AL-07), and Steve Knight (CA-26).