Opioid Bills Now in Negotiations

The Minnesota Senate followed the House’s lead on April 1, 2019, by passing legislation to address the opioid epidemic with a strong bipartisan vote. The Senate bill, authored by Senator Julie Rosen (R – Vernon Center), cleared the body with a 59 to 6 vote. The House bill passed in March, authored by Representative Liz Olson (DFL – Duluth), 94 to 34.

MAFP legislative representative Dave Renner, CAE, shares about what’s different in these two bills, currently being negotiated in conference committee.

While the bills share a similar intent and many provisions are comparable, there are several differences. The chief difference is how the revenue is raised through increased fees on drug manufacturers and distributors and where it goes. The House allocates 30 percent of the revenue to assist counties with the increased expenses in child protective services given the opioid epidemic, while the Senate devotes half of the $20 million generated under the bills.

Also, the Senate proposal includes a mandate that prescribers check the Minnesota Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) before prescribing controlled substances. Importantly, the bill includes several exceptions to this requirement, including for post-surgical pain, hospice, emergencies and when the PMP is not accessible.

The Senate bill includes language that would reduce the increased fees on manufacturers and distributors should the state receive a settlement of $20 million or more in the lawsuits against manufacturers, currently pending in the court system.

Given these differences, a conference committee held its first meeting on April 4, 2019, to negotiate. Conference committee members include Senators Julie Rosen (R – Vernon Center), Rich Draheim (R – Madison Lake) and Chris Eaton (DFL – Brooklyn Center) and House members Liz Olson (DFL – Duluth), Dave Baker (R – Willmar) and Laurie Halvorson (DFL – Eagan).

In addition to the increased fees on manufacturers and distributors, the bill contains several other provisions related to opioids, including:

  • Opioid dose limits of seven days for the treatment of acute pain (with the Senate capping the volume at five days for patients under 18). This provision does allow prescribers to deviate from the cap if it is in the prescriber’s professional judgment.
  • Mandated health insurance coverage for acupuncture for the treatment of pain.
  • Requirement that prescribers complete two hours of continuing medical education regarding best practices for opioid prescribing as well as non-pharmacologic treatments for pain. Both bills sunset this provision, though the date differs slightly.
  • Establishment of an Advisory Council on Rare Diseases at the University of Minnesota. There are multiple seats on the council for physician members.

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