Long-term care providers might need to change pain management to cut opioid use, MedPAC analyst says

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Long-term care and other providers might have to alter their pain management practices if changes discussed at a recent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission meeting come to pass.

The Oct. 9 meeting in Washington, D.C., focused on reducing unnecessary opioid use. Beneficiaries with high opioid use are likely to be in a long-term care facility, Principal Policy Analyst Shinobu Suzuki noted in a presentation to the commission. MedPAC might be especially interested in investigating LTC prescribing patterns for opioids, given “other concerns” such as antipsychotic medication use in these settings, Suzuki said.

MedPAC Commissioner Kathy Buto said pain management is becoming an increasingly pressing issue and proposed that Medicare could “incent” improvements in this area — seemingly a suggestion that payments would be in some way tied to pain control practices. Commissioner Craig Samitt, MD, noted that customer satisfaction is closely linked to pain management, which could be leading providers to be more “liberal” in administering potentially dangerous analgesic drugs.

Long-term care providers have balked at efforts to limit access to opioids, saying restrictions could hamper caregivers and harm residents who experience chronic pain.

Click here for a complete transcript of the MedPAC meeting. The group advises Congress on Medicare policy, but lawmakers are not bound to follow its recommendations.