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Christie Signs Opioid Treatment Mandate, Prescription Limit

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 16:39
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Bill highlights differences between O’Scanlon and Handlin in LD-13 Senate Race

Handlin says new law punishes patients for the sins and transgressions of addicts

Governor Chris Christie signed legislation today that compels New Jersey health insurance companies to cover inpatient care to opioid addicts, implements a 5 day limit on the first prescription for opioid painkillers, and requires doctors to discuss the dangers of opioid addiction with patients.

“Everyone in New Jersey is impacted by America’s growing drug addiction crisis, and so I am proud bipartisan legislative leaders expedited the passage of this life-saving healthcare reform that will serve as a national model,” Governor Christie said. “Lives will no longer be put at risk by layers of needless bureaucracy or due to an overabundance of prescribed opioid pills that get into the hands of children and the vulnerable. This is no doubt the strongest law in the country that will provide critical prevention and treatment measures to combat the rampant, deadly disease of addiction.”

The new law is enacts the nation’s strictest restriction on prescription painkillers.

The legislation passed in the State Senate, 33-0, with 7 senators not voting last week. It passed the General Assembly this afternoon, 64-1 with five abstention, moments before Christie signed the new law.

For Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, a Primary Sponsor of the bill, the legislation is personal.

“The mission of this bill is critical to heading off the rampant opioid addiction crisis and salvaging the lives of as many people as possible,” said O’Scanlon (R—Monmouth). “I have had first-hand experience dealing with addiction and wrestling with the random life-and-death decisions of insurance companies regarding treatment availability.”

“I myself have received calls denying treatment for someone I know will die without it,” said O’Scanlon. “I have had unneeded prescriptions handed to me after minor procedures. We need this bill to stop the carnage that is rampantly ravaging families across our state, yielding to no socio-economic, geographic, ethnic, or class boundaries.  Now is the time for us, as a compassionate society, to take real substantive and dramatic action to win this battle.”

Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, O’Scanlon’s opponent for the GOP nomination to replace the retiring Senator Joe Kyrillos in the Senate next year, voted for the bill today, after abstaining on January 30th when the bill was cleared 10-0 by the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.  Handlin referred to addicts as sinners to justify her abstention.

“I am going to abstain in order to underscore the depth of my concern about punishing law-abiding people in pain and constraining their doctors in unworkable ways for the sins of other over whom they have no control,” said Handlin at the Committee hearing, according to NJ 101.5

While Christie was signing the bill, Handlin announced that she would introduce legislation extending the 5 day prescription limit to 7 days and softened her language about addicts from sinners to transgressors.

“We don’t want patients who have a legitimate need for these medications to be punished for the transgressions of abusers,” said Handlin said in a press release announcing she would introduce the bill.

In his remarks to the press after the bill signing, Christie said he would veto a bill that allows first opioid prescriptions of 7 days, but that he would consider a bill that shortens the scripts to 3 days.

This new law ensuress:

  • No one will be turned away from treatment for insurance reasons, if a licensed provider prescribes substance abuse disorder treatment;
  • Insurance coverage for treatment of a substance abuse disorder will be required and any waiting period that could derail a person’s recovery will be eliminated;
  • People diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder will have covered treatment for 180 days, starting the day they need it, including long-term out-patient treatment with no interference from their carrier;
  • Covered medication-assisted treatments must be provided without the imposition of prior approval from a carrier;
  • Onerous pre-payment obligations imposed by providers will be prohibited, and instead, patients will only be required to pay their copayment, deductible or co-insurance for their treatment;
  • Treatment for substance abuse disorders must be covered by the carrier to the same extent as any other covered medical condition without increased copayments, deductibles or co-insurance;
  • The Office of Attorney General will be tasked with monitoring this system to prevent waste, fraud or abuse, and to ensure providers are not improperly treating patients or filling beds that could be used by others in need of treatment; and
  • A five-day limit on initial opioid prescriptions, lowered from 30 days, to avoid deadly and habit-forming gateway drugs from getting into the hands of children and the vulnerable.


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