Providers and patients would have more information on opioid use disorder and addiction programs under a measure backed by Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins. 

The measure, which has the backing of Republican lawmakers as well, would create an educational outreach effort by the Department of Health and Human Services to increase awareness among health care providers in the Medicare program as well as beneficaires. 

"Tackling Opioid Use Disorder is complex, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the challenges associated with addiction more difficult to contend with," Higgins said. “This measure will provide physicians with the tools to expand community access to live-saving treatments that lead to recovery. I am proud to join in leading this legislation that will make a difference for countless families in Western New York and across the country."

Overdoses have spiked in New York and across the country in conjunction with the COVID pandemic. State and federal officials have responded, calling for new ways of contending with the addiction issue by having pharmacies be required to carry naloxone, a drug used to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose. 

The Medicare program since the start of 2020 has covered opioid use disorder treatment, including coverage for medication assisted treatment services as way to help manage addiction. 

The bill sponsored by Higgins would have the secretary of Health and Human Services reach out to doctors and non-physician practitioners who participate in the Medicare program to encourage greater use of opioid use disorder services. 

The outreach would include a one-time education program on porgrams and services covered under the Medicare program.