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Greenwald, Armato & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Expand Access to Opioid Addiction Treatment for Medicaid Recipients Passes Senate

Continuing efforts to combat the ongoing opioid crisis in New Jersey, which claimed the lives of an estimated 3,118 people last year, Assembly Democrats Louis Greenwald, John Armato and Valerie Vainieri Huttle sponsored legislation to more quickly provide critical opioid addiction treatment for patients covered under Medicaid by removing prior authorization requirements. The measure passed the full Senate 38-0.

“When it comes to the treatment of people suffering from opioid addiction, every moment matters,” said Majority Leader Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington). “Like any disease, it must be treated in order for a patient to recover. With this bill, we’re confirming via statute that Medicaid recipients will be able to receive critical treatment when needed and begin their road to recovery. To truly fight this opioid epidemic, we must break down treatment and access barriers for everyone.”

The bill (A-4744) would require the Department of Human Services to ensure that provisions of benefits for medication assisted treatment, to eligible persons under the Medicaid program or those who receive services funded through the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, be provided without the imposition of any prior authorization requirements or other prospective utilization management requirements. Treatment must be provided by a licensed medical practitioner who is authorized to prescribe and administer methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone, or other medication approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, pursuant to State and federal law.

“Research has increasingly shown that medication assisted treatment can be the most effective treatment for substance abuse disorders like opioid addiction,” said Armato (D-Armato).  “It helps to ease withdrawal symptoms and prevents patients from feeling the effects of any opioids taken during withdrawal. In this way, the treatment helps patients overcome what can otherwise be tremendous challenges in the process. We have to make sure people who desperately need this treatment have access to it in a timely manner, which is exactly what this bill does.”

“If someone suffering from substance abuse decides to get help, it’s critically important that they are treated as soon as possible. By getting prior preauthorization it can delay treatment for several days, which may not be enough time to save someone’s life,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “If we can provide a simpler avenue towards effective treatment, we open doors to recovery for people whose lives are greatly at risk.”

The measure was approved last week by the full Assembly, 76-0; it now heads back to the Assembly to concur with amendments.