Efforts to disseminate and begin implementing recommendations from the new report from the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force (PMTF), released in May, are underway.

Most notably, according to a June 3 report from Fox News, Sen. Lamar Alexander—chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee—said that he plans to hold a hearing before the committee that will focus on the task force’s findings. The pain community can take part in an action campaign to encourage a hearing by clicking here.

In addition, last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) held a conference call with the task force to discuss how it can implement the task force’s recommendations. Congress required CMS to work with the task force and develop an Action Plan via the Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act. The act is intended to expand access to treatment for substance use disorders, as well as for acute and chronic pain. The Action Plan will include a number of elements: a review of coverage and payment policies under Medicare and Medicaid, demonstration project recommendations, data collection, opioid prescribing guidelines, clinician training and consideration of special populations.

To inform the Action Plan, CMS created a series of nine questions for the PMTF to address and held a conference call on the evening of June 26 to discuss PMTF’s answers to the questions. CMS wanted to know how it could improve access to therapies, medical devices, mobile apps, and telemedicine that manage acute and chronic pain and decrease the risk of opioid abuse and misuse. Additionally, the PMTF was asked to identify any problematic payment and coverage policies, as well as innovative payment and service delivery models— including value-based models—that could encourage the use of therapies to manage acute and chronic pain.

Task Force members discussed the approximately 20-25 recommendations in the final report that speak to these questions. Among the highest-impact recommendations are:

  • CMS should reimburse for integrative, multidisciplinary pain care using a chronic disease management model, similar to that currently used to manage cardiac rehabilitation
  • Develop CPT codes for team leaders’ time spent coordinating care
  • CMS should provide sufficient compensation for time and services required for the complexity of good pain care including pain assessment, screening, risk stratification, development of treatment plan, patient education and reevaluation
  • CMS should explore and test innovative models of delivering patient education and support including networks of in-person support groups, online support, mobile applications and telehealth

“I am encouraged that CMS is engaged and listening and appears to be interested in improving access to  a wider range of therapies for acute and chronic pain, as well as open to paying for trials of new and innovative models of pain care,” says Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy for the U.S, Pain Foundation and a member of the PMTF. “I am eager to see the Action Plan that CMS develops.”

CMS will be working on the Action Plan over the next few months and will convene a meeting in the fall to solicit comments on all aspects of the Plan.