Federal Bill Would Ease Telemedicine Prescribing Requirements for Substance Use Treatment

Original Source: Center for Connected Health Policy

The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act (S 2074) was introduced earlier this month in the Senate by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).  The bill would amend the definition of the “practice of telemedicine” to allow for its use to prescribe narcotic drugs in schedule III, IV or V (such as buprenorphine) while the patient is being treated by a community health aide or community health practitioner.  The bill describes the terms community health aide or community health practitioner as having the same “meanings within the meaning” of Section 119 of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. The prescription could only be made for maintenance treatment or detoxification treatment without being registered with the DEA if the drug is prescribed by a practitioner through the practice of telemedicine.  The bill would also prohibit a state from placing a requirement that a community health aide or community health practitioner be licensed by the State in order to dispense narcotic drugs.

Currently, a patient must first have an in-person exam or fall under one of several exceptions within the definition of the practice of telemedicine, the most common of which is the patient being physically located in a hospital or clinic registered with the DEA in order to be prescribed a controlled substance.  The DEA is required to create a special registration to provide an exception to this requirement, however they have not yet released their proposed plans for such a rule.  Note that this bill would still require the prescribing (distant site) practitioner to be registered with the DEA.

S 2074 is now in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.


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