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Ohio Attorney General Demands Changes To Federal Opioid Treatment Policies

Auditor Dave Yost (left) discusses the bill alongside Sen. Dave Burke (R-Marysville), the chair of the Health, Human Services and Medicaid committee.
Karen Kasler
Ohio Public Radio

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost joined several other state attorneys general in a letter to Congress that requests increased health care access for people struggling with opioid addiction.  

The group outlined three possible areas of improvement. The first is an overhaul of decades-old privacy rules that keep substance abuse treatment off someone’s health records.

Yost says the old privacy rule, 42 CFR Part 2, is far stricter than the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA.

"If David Letterman were still doing his show he could put these things into a little skit called 'Stupid Government Tricks.' These three rules would unquestionably be in his top 10," Yost says. "We just need to fix it."

The second proposal would eliminate restrictions on the prescription of buprenorphine, a drug used in medically-assisted addiction treatment. 

"For some reason, if you want to be able to prescribe the prescription medicine that helps people deal with opiate use disorder, you've got to jump through all these extra hoops," Yost says. "We think we ought to get rid of that. It just doesn't make any sense."

The third item pushes for state Medicaid programs to receive federal reimbursement for patients in treatment facilities larger than 16 beds. This rule was created to encourage smaller, community-focused treatment programs. 

But Yost says the old rules don't make sense given the current urgency of the opioid crisis. 

"The time has come, whether they were ever good ideas or not, that we ought to fix it and make it quicker and easier to be able to get treatment for opiate use disorder," he says.

Ohio has the second highest opioid overdose rate in the country.