Senate Bill Aimed at Expanding Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder Includes Permanent Telehealth Flexibilities

On November 1, 2023, a bipartisan group of senators announced that they had reintroduced legislation to expand and eliminate barriers to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) through telehealth. Specifically, the Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act, aims to increase access to telehealth services for OUD by making Covid-19 public health emergency (PHE) telehealth flexibilities permanent, effectively allowing practitioners to prescribe medication such as buprenorphine, without a prior in-person evaluation.

The topic of accessing controlled medication via telehealth, including medications used in OUD treatment, has been widely discussed this year since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) first announced a restrictive proposed rule in February. If enacted, the proposed would have limited telehealth prescription orders for  buprenorphine to one thirty day order in the absence of an in-person encounter. The proposed rule resulted in a record 38,000 comments. As a result, the DEA implemented an initial extension of PHE prescribing flexibilities, hosted public listening sessions, and subsequently the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the DEA issued a joint extension of the PHE flexibilities through December 31, 2024.

If enacted, the TREATS Act would permanently extend access to OUD treatment medications via telehealth and enable practitioners to continue providing treatments to those with opioid use disorder, particularly those in underserved and rural populations across the country who may be unable or unwilling to travel to see a provider in person.

How Frier Levitt Can Help

Frier Levitt continues to monitor new and proposed telehealth legislation affecting providers post-pandemic now that the majority of waivers have expired and temporary extensions have begun to wind down. Frier Levitt attorneys regularly advise providers, marketers, and administrative and technology companies on developing and restructuring telehealth business models to comply with applicable law while considering obstacles related to prescribing, licensing, and insurance reimbursement concerns that are unique to each arrangement. If you are seeking to Launch a Telemedicine Practice or Telehealth Startup or want to ensure your compliance in an existing model, contact us to speak to an experienced telehealth attorney who can comprehensively evaluate and recommend a compliant, sustainable model.