The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently announced that it will conduct a review of access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s Buprenorphine Waiver Program. The waiver program permits providers to prescribe buprenorphine to patients in office settings, rather than in traditional opioid treatment facilities.
In announcing the review, the OIG noted that “a treatment gap continues to exist where less than 1 percent of the people in the United States who need treatment for substance use disorder receive it.” The OIG will examine the number, location and patient capacity of providers who have obtained buprenorphine waivers from SAMHSA. It will also determine the extent to which providers under a waiver are located in areas with the greatest need for MAT services, the number of patients they report treating with buprenorphine and the factors that may either facilitate or hinder the provision of buprenorphine in an office setting. The OIG expects to release its report in 2018.
The review of SAMHSA’s Buprenorphine Waiver Program was posted on the OIG’s Work Plan website. The review was part of the first monthly update to the OIG annual Work Plan under a new process to inform the public of new reviews and activities. In the past, the OIG provided updates on the Work Plan to Congress through semi-annual and mid-year updates and updated the written Work Plan once or twice per year. The new monthly updates became effective June 15 and will include the addition of newly initiated Work Plan items. Completed items will be removed on the published reports available on OIG’s website.
The OIG’s oversight responsibilities include two broad categories: Medicare and Medicaid programs administered by CMS and public health and human services programs, including agencies such as SAMHSA and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Each fiscal year, the OIG releases a Work Plan that summarizes new and ongoing reviews and activities that they plan to pursue with respect to different programs and operations. The programs and areas identified in the OIG’s Work Plan represent greater enforcement risks.