Many in the chronic pain community expressed concern after CVS pharmacy announced this month that it will limit opioid prescriptions to seven days for acute or new conditions. The wording of the new policy is as follows: “This program will include limiting to seven days the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions for patients who are new to therapy,” which means people living with chronic pain should not be subjected to the seven-day limit. However, CVS will  limit the daily dosage of opioids and will require use of immediate-release formulations before prescribing extended-release opioids; these two changes may affect chronic pain patients.[...]

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U.S. Pain goes international

Golden, left, with Steinberg, at right

U.S. Pain Foundation’s National Director of Policy and Advocacy Cindy Steinberg and California ambassador Katie Golden traveled to Amsterdam for a two-day international patient advocacy forum. Organizations from around the European Union and United States  represented patients with chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s Disease, and migraine disease.

The purpose of the forum was to exchange ideas on what are the biggest challenges to patient groups today across countries and disease conditions and to brainstorm about hat can be done to tackle them.[...]

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Despite opposition from groups like the U.S. Pain Foundation, beginning in January 2018, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will change the pain management questions on patient hospital satisfaction surveys from how well staff did controlling patients’ pain to how often they “talked” to patients about their pain. The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, known as the HCAHPS survey, is a high-profile, publicly reported measure that allows consumers to compare the quality of care between different hospitals. Survey results are also used to determine a portion of hospital reimbursement rates.[...]

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As Texas and Louisiana continue efforts to keep residents safe, patient-centered organizations are concerned for pain patients and others who have had their treatments interrupted or are without medical equipment.To ensure patients affected by Hurricane Harvey  do not face unintended, negative health outcomes, U.S. Pain has put together an online engagement campaign that asks the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to activate its Emergency Prescription Assistance Program. This would allow eligible patients to receive their necessary prescriptions and medical equipment at no cost from participating pharmacies.[...]

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In a conference room overlooking Washington, D.C., nonprofit organizations and other stakeholders gathered around the table and gave U.S. Pain Foundation the opportunity to present ideas and cultivate conversations surrounding patient access issues.

Known as the Keeping Patients Stable on Their Medications Coalition, the group had met in the past to address step therapy and nonmedical switching, two common insurance barriers to medications. Now under the leadership of the U.S. Pain Foundation, the goal is to expand upon the coalition’s initial efforts.[...]

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During the early morning hours of July 28, the U.S. Senate narrowly rejected the most recent proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as the “skinny repeal.”  McCain (R-Arizona), who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, casted the deciding vote.

U.S. Pain was among many health and patient organizations that opposed the proposed reform, including: the American Medical Association; the American Public Health Association; American Hospital Association; AARP; the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; and the National Organization for Rare Disorders.[...]

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Wendy Foster, at left, with Sen. Blumenthal.

On July 25, the Senate voted to start debate on several proposed bills that aim to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While it remains unclear what the final version of the bill will look like, every proposal so far would likely have negative consequences on those with chronic pain and other chronic illnesses.

U.S. Pain is asking members to take action now by sending a letter to your senators using this easy tool. Most major health care organizations oppose the proposed reforms, including the American Medical Association;  the American Public Health Association; American Hospital Association; American Association of Medical Colleges; AARP; American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; American Heart Association: American Lung Association; and National Organization for Rare Disorders.[...]

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U.S. Pain encourages advocates to take action to support the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act (S.1374/H.R.2920) by sending a letter to their legislators (click here to contact your legislator). The bill represents a major step forward for medical cannabis — it would move cannabis from a schedule I drug to a schedule II drug, reduce the role of the federal government in interfering with state medical cannabis programs, and enhance access for veterans.[...]

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Understanding the BCRA

U.S. Pain remains extremely concerned about the Senate’s proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) and its negative implications for the 100 million Americans living with chronic pain. The concerns are as follows:

  • While these reforms may make insurance cheaper for healthy individuals, their insurance will be significantly inferior, which will become a problem should they develop a chronic condition, like chronic pain. As the pain community knows, chronic pain can strike at any time.
  •  Meanwhile, people with chronic health conditions and older individuals will likely be subjected to higher costs—without any improvement in the quality of their insurance or even a decline in quality.
  •  Many individuals will lose access to low-cost insurance through Medicaid. But chronic pain can affect peoples’ ability to work. Through no fault of their own, they have difficulty affording health insurance and rely on Medicaid for care.

U.S. Pain recognizes that this is a highly sensitive and polarizing issue for many people. As such, it has put together a chart about some of the differences between the ACA and the BCRA.[...]

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On June 1, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released the Federal Pain Research Strategy (FPRS), a long-term strategic plan for the federal agencies that support pain research. It is essentially a companion plan to the National Pain Strategy (NPS), which identifies what steps must be taken to improve pain awareness, professional education, and delivery of care.

“U.S. Pain Foundation is pleased with the thoughtful work that was invested by many researchers in creating this excellent plan,” says Cindy Steinberg, national director of policy and advocacy for U.S. Pain. “There is no specific funding earmarked to implement this essential plan, so we encourage our members to support our efforts to advocate for increased funding for pain research at the NIH and within other federal agencies.”[...]

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