Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Amy Sanders Morgan provided insight for a Law360 | Healthcare Authority article outlining a final rule by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) that expands access to opioid use disorder treatment by permanently extending certain telehealth and at-home flexibilities for certified opioid treatment programs. The flexibilities allowing providers to initiate certain prescriptions during telehealth visits and patients to obtain take-home methadone doses while in opioid treatment programs were temporarily granted during the pandemic.

As Amy pointed out, regulatory flexibilities related to telehealth that were granted during the pandemic [accelerated acceptance of telehealth and] “served as a way for the government to test the impacts of various flexibilities, providing data on levels of misuse, patient harm and diversion.”

While Amy believes the industry will welcome many of the flexibilities, she also warns that “it’s important for providers to understand that the changes in this final rule do not supersede applicable state rules. Although we’re generally seeing states update their regulatory frameworks to expand access to care, some states may still have rules that are more restrictive.”

“In another change that will be welcomed by individuals seeking treatment,” Amy told Law360, “the rule removes certain admission barriers, including the requirement that patients have a history of addiction for a full year before admission to an [opioid treatment program]. The rule also removes some requirements on minors seeking treatment, so that individuals under 18 are no longer required to have two documented unsuccessful attempts at short-term withdrawal management, also known as detoxification, or drug-free treatment.”

The full article, “HHS OKs Telehealth, At-Home Flexibility for Opioid Treatment,” was published by Law360 | Healthcare Authority on February 1 and is available online (subscription required).