Doctors and nurses who have struggled with opioid addiction in the past may be allowed to keep their medical certifications, but they are not allowed to bill Medicare or Medicaid for five years.

That's a rule put into place in the 1980s by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General to deal with fraud, but its current iteration leaves medical professionals with very few places to practice medicine. 

A recent article in Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly (ADAW) looked at a few case studies related to this issue. The author is Alison Knopf, editor of ADAW, as well as a senior writer for Addiction Treatment Forum and a freelance journalist specializing in addiction treatment and behavioral health care. She spoke with Capital Tonight about the issue. 

Capital Tonight also spoke with Zenaida Saldaña, a bilingual registered nurse with over 20 years of experience. While Saldaña was addicted to opioids at one time, she’s been abstinent since 2016. She discussed what it’s been like to be on the Medicare and Medicaid exclusion list since mid-2020. 

Saldaña is a member of SPAN, Statewide Peer Assistance for Nurses, which assists nurses who are in all stages of opioid addiction and recovery.