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Mullin' It Over Column

Our Work to End the Opioid Crisis Is Not Done

By Congressman Markwayne Mullin

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Muskogee, October 10, 2018 | comments

When any patient goes to the doctor, they can—and should—expect to receive the gold standard of treatment.  However, one 40 year old law in desperate need of modernization is preventing doctors from providing the highest level of care to every patient that walks through their door.  A bill I sponsored, H.R. 6082, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, would ensure that doctors have access to all of a patient’s relevant medical information before treating them.

Current law, often referred to as Part 2, acts as a firewall between doctors and patients, obstructing doctors from seeing a patient’s full medical record.  For instance, when a patient visits the doctor for a broken arm, the doctor does not have access to the patient’s substance use disorder record.  Part 2 segregates a patient’s medical records and substance use disorder records.  Patients have to go through a burdensome process of filling out paperwork to give doctors and every member of a medical team explicit permission to see both of their medical records.  Therefore, a doctor can unknowingly prescribe a patient addictive opioids that have the potential to cause an overdose.

For years, society has failed to view opioid addiction as the health care condition it truly is.  Instead, we have branded addicts as failures and in turn, encouraged individuals struggling to hide their condition.  Part 2 reinforces this shroud of secrecy by hiding a patient’s medical records from their doctor.

My bill, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, would align Part 2 regulations with HIPAA to allow doctors access to drug addiction records in addition to the rest of their medical records.  It would give doctors access to critical information about a patients’ addiction history that can prevent tragic overdoses and improve patient safety.

In September, the House and Senate passed H.R. 6, a historic package of legislation to combat the opioid crisis.  Despite a bipartisan group of 357 members of the House and every physician currently serving in the House supporting the bill, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act was not included in H.R. 6. 

With the opioid crisis taking 115 American lives each day, we simply cannot afford not to find—and act on—every possible solution to this harrowing epidemic.  I am determined to bring the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act to the floor for another vote in November and strongly urge my colleagues in the Senate to do the same.  Lives are on the line. 

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