Press Releases

Act to Reduce Pressure to Overprescribe Painkillers

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), joined by his colleagues Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), introduced legislation Thursday to reduce the pressure doctors currently face that may lead to overprescribing painkilling drugs called opioids.

Currently, patient survey results are factored into Medicare payments to hospitals. But experts point out that questions specifically related to pain management could have the unintended effect of pressuring physicians to prescribe opioids in order to ensure high patient satisfaction scores and reimbursement. The Promoting Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP) Act would ensure that pain management questions on patient surveys would not factor into Medicare reimbursement calculations.

“The Senate's recent passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was an important step, but there is still more we can do.” Sen. Johnson said. “The government may mean well by linking payments to patient satisfaction, but there is real, bipartisan concern that specific questions about pain management place inappropriate pressure on doctors. Physicians must be free to exercise their best judgment when prescribing the proper level of pain medication – that’s what patients and taxpayers expect.”  

“This bipartisan legislation will ensure we don’t put undue pressure on our prescribers who are on the front lines of this epidemic,” Sen. Manchin said. “This simple change to the Affordable Care Act will strike a harmful provision that pressures doctors and hospitals to prescribe narcotic pain medicine and will reduce the risk of addiction by reducing opioid medication prescriptions for patients who don’t need these dangerous drugs. This is critical in our fight to prevent the misuse and abuse of opioids and I’m glad to join my colleague Senator Johnson in introducing this important legislation.”

“As a doctor who practiced medicine in Wyoming for 25 years, I can tell you treating pain in our patients is one of the most difficult things we do,” said Sen. Barrasso. “Doctors should prescribe pain medication based on their best clinical judgements—not because they’re worried about the results of a government survey.”

“By alleviating some of the pressure doctors currently face to prescribe opioids, this bipartisan legislation will help stop legitimate prescriptions from turning into dangerous addictions,” Sen. Blumenthal said. “The over-prescribing of opioid painkillers has made the United States the epicenter of the deadly prescription opioid epidemic, and we must address it. While the recently passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act is a meaningful step toward ending the deadly opioid epidemic, the critical legislation we are introducing today would build on that momentum by helping to prevent addiction in the first place.”

Johnson’s bill is the Senate companion to H.R. 4499, a bipartisan measure introduced by Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) that has been endorsed by the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Academy of Neurology, American Osteopathic Association, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Friends of NIDA, and American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Full text of the bill, S. 2758, can be found here.

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