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Azar: Congressional Action Needed to Reform SUD Confidentiality Law


WASHINGTON, DC – The Trump administration yesterday announced a proposal to reform substance use disorder (SUD) confidentiality law known as 42 CFR Part 2. This administrative action is needed but, as POLITICO reports, HHS Secretary Alex Azar says congressional action is necessary for additional reforms. “We support further consideration by Congress,” Azar said.

Congress can act by passing the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, legislation from Representatives Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) which would put the protection of substance use disorder records under HIPAA instead of 42 CFR Part 2. The bill passed alongside the SUPPORT Act by a sweeping bipartisan vote of 357-57 but was dropped by the Senate last Congress.

Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) and Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Dr. Michael Burgess (R-TX) agree that the ball is in Congress’ court: “We welcome the administration’s partnership in this effort with today’s announcement. But passing this legislation into law is the best way to fully and permanently ensure health care providers can effectively treat patients with substance use disorders,” the leaders said in a statement.

Stakeholders, the administration, and bipartisan members of Congress agree – making needed changes to SUD confidentiality law is the best solution to tackle this issue. Let’s get it done.


HHS changes privacy restrictions around addiction treatment

By Susannah Luthi and Steven Ross Johnson

The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled long-anticipated proposals to pare back extra privacy regulations around addiction that critics claim have exacerbated overdose rates in the opioid epidemic.

Senior officials described these regulations, known as CFR Part 2, as “so complex” they have deterred clinicians from getting involved in treating addiction despite the escalating need.

Two leading House Republicans took the opportunity on Thursday to reiterate their own support for a legislative change.

“This builds on our efforts last Congress, when the House overwhelmingly passed the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, which unfortunately was not taken up in the Senate,” Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Michael Burgess (R-Texas) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said in a statement.

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HHS proposes change in data sharing rule to improve opioid response

By Darius Tahir

HHS today proposed a set of relatively minor revisions to 42 CFR Part 2, the 1970s-era regulation governing privacy protections for substance use records, but said an overhaul would be up to Congress.

The revision marks the third attempt since 2017 to change the rule, which requires explicit patient consent to share records. Critics believe the rule adds administrative burdens to health care and endangers patient health by making medication and other history difficult to share.

“None of the proposals change the consent requirement,” Azar said, adding they were “commonsense” changes that responded to concerns the department had heard from the public. The agency couldn’t go further because of the underlying statute, he said; going further would require Congressional authorization.

“We support further consideration by Congress,” he concluded.

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Feds to revamp confidentiality rules for addiction treatment

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar

Federal health officials proposed Thursday to revamp stringent patient confidentiality regulations from the 1970s to encourage coordination among medical professionals treating people caught in the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the goal is to make it easier to share a patient’s drug treatment history with doctors treating that person for other problems. That can stave off serious — even fatal — errors, like unwittingly prescribing opioid painkillers to a surgical patient with a history of dependence. A patient’s consent would still be required.

A coalition of nearly 50 groups, including mental health professionals, insurers, hospitals and pharmacists, has been pressing for a change. The push has bipartisan support in Congress.

“This was all well-meaning,” Azar said of the original rules. “The idea was people won’t seek treatment if they feared that information would be available to law enforcement. (But) a highly restrictive regime on the control of that information has served as a barrier to safe, coordinated care for that same patient.”

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Health (116th Congress)
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