WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is pushing several pieces of legislation as key Senate Committees begin putting together the next package of legislation aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic. This week, Brown introduced three new, bipartisan bills to be considered by the Senate Finance Committee, including one to require drug companies and medical device makers to publicly disclose the payments that they make to nurse practitioners and physician assistants – medical providers who often prescribe opioids.
The Senate HELP and Finance Committees are each moving forward with opioid bills in hopes of passing a broad legislative package this year. Brown is actively engaged in the work on both Committees and supporting several bills introduced by his colleagues.
“Eleven Ohioans will die today of an opioid overdose, and Congress must be doing everything in our power to fight this epidemic on all fronts,” Brown said. “From making sure patients know about any drug company kickbacks going to their prescriber, to better caring for babies born with addiction and seniors on Medicare, there are many important bipartisan steps we can take right now. As these bills move through Congress, I will also keep fighting to get meaningful investments to Ohioans fighting the addiction epidemic on the front lines.”
The bills Brown introduced this week are the:
- 1. Fighting the Opioid Epidemic with Sunshine Act. Brown introduced this bill with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). It would require drug companies and medical device makers to publicly disclose the payments that they make to nurse practitioners and physician assistants for promotional talks, consulting, and other interactions, just as they are required to for payments made to physicians and academic medical centers. This legislation will add additional transparency around prescribing practices and, by shining a light on the relationship between drug companies and prescriptions for opioids, help ensure greater accountability across all healthcare professionals who can prescribe controlled substances.
- 2. Comprehensive Screenings for Seniors Act. Brown worked with Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), John Thune (R-SD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) to introduce bipartisan legislation that would ensure health care providers better engage with their Medicare patients about pain management and addiction risks. This legislation would ensure doctors, nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers discuss addiction risks with patients during annual wellness visits, the same way they would discuss diabetes and other health conditions.
- 3. Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act. Brown introduced this bill with Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dean Heller (D-NV), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The CRIB Act would allow Medicaid to cover health care services provided to infants in residential pediatric recovery facilities in addition to hospitals. Similar to the earlier version of this bill the Senators introduced at this time last year, the latest version of this legislation would clarify that babies receiving services in residential pediatric recovery centers can continue to receive services after one year of age, and provide for activities to encourage caregiver-infant bonding.
Brown is also a cosponsor of several other bipartisan bills introduced by other members of the Finance Committee that are likely to be considered by the committee in the coming weeks, including the Help for Moms and Babies Act, introduced by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and the Informing Seniors About Opioids Act, introduced by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL).
Brown will also continue to push legislation he has already introduced, including:
- The POWER Act – This bipartisan bill would help state and local law enforcement obtain high-tech screening equipment used to quickly detect dangerous drugs like the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl so that they can investigate appropriately. The POWER Act would give law enforcement officers access to the same screening devices that Brown helped secure for federal Customs and Border Protection agents in his INTERDICT Act. President Trump signed INTERDICT into law earlier this year.
- The Collectively Achieving Recovery and Employment (CARE) Act – This bipartisan bill would address the workforce shortage created by the addiction crisis by combining existing grant programs at the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a six-year pilot project to combine job training and addiction recovery services.
Earlier this year, the Senate passed Brown’s Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, which will establish a Federal Task Force to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, which would identify, coordinate, and share information and resources to help grandparents and other relatives who are stepping up to raise children in light of the opioid epidemic.