ACEP Congressional Affairs Director
The U.S. House of Representatives spent two weeks in June completing floor consideration on bills to help address the opioid epidemic, which was the culmination of months of legislative hearings and mark-ups in several different committees. Among the legislation successfully approved by the House were ACEP’s priority bills, the “Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act” (H.R. 5197) and the “Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) Act” (H.R. 5176). Both bills were approved by voice vote. These bills, along with many other opioid-related measures, were then incorporated into the “SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act” (H.R. 6), which has become the underlying legislative vehicle for the House to reconcile a comprehensive opioids package with the Senate. H.R. 6 was approved on June 22nd by a vote of 396 to 14.
Several committees in the Senate (Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), Finance, and Judiciary), have completed action on their respective opioid bills and they have consolidated these proposals into one package, which is similar to H.R. 6, but still contains a few significant differences. The Senate is scheduled to vote on its comprehensive opioid bill Monday (9/17) evening and it is expected to be approved easily.
At that point the House and Senate can enter into formal negotiations to reconcile the differences between the two bills and address any outstanding concerns that were not already attended to in previous discussions. Once the final version of the bill has been established, it will need to be approved one final time by both chambers before it can be sent to the president for his signature into law.
Every indication is that Congress will enact the opioid legislation into law before the end of the year and that it will include the establishment of the ACEP-supported ALTO and ED-initiated Medication Assisted Treatment (POWER Act) grant programs.