Johnson, Mooney and Alexander Praise Administration Plan to Remove Pain Management Measures from Medicare Payment Calculations

Plan implements Johnson legislation reducing pressure to overprescribe opioids

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) commended U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell Wednesday for proposing to remove pain management questions from hospital payment calculations said to contribute to the overprescribing of opioids.

“Removing questions from payment calculations that could lead to inappropriate pressure on doctors is a bipartisan, commonsense solution to tackling the enormous challenges we face in the ongoing opioid epidemic,” Sen. Johnson said. “I’m glad to see that the Department of Health and Human Services plans to implement changes my legislation called for as part of their newly announced actions on opioids—it’s the responsible thing to do.”

“This is a big win for Senator Johnson, for the people of Wisconsin, and for the country,” said Senate health committee Chairman Alexander. “These survey questions had the unintended consequence of actually encouraging the overprescribing of painkilling opioids and I’m glad to see the administration correct this mistake by removing them from Medicare payment calculations."

“Last night, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that they are implementing the important policy changes contained in the PROP Act. Since I first introduced in February, I have been calling for Congress to pass my common sense, bipartisan legislation, which puts doctors, not the federal government, in control of opioid prescribing decisions. This change in policy is an important part of the fight against opioid abuse. I would like to thank all 43 cosponsors of my bill in the House and Sen. Johnson and Sen. Manchin for introducing companion legislation in the Senate in our successful effort to help put an end to opioid abuse,” said Rep. Alex Mooney.


The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey currently includes questions asking patients how well physicians treated their pain. Many doctors have raised concerns that unless they prescribe painkillers, patients will give them a lower score. Because the HCAHPS survey is linked to Medicare payments for hospitals, many physicians claimed they felt pressure to prescribe painkillers or see their reimbursement levels go down. The announcement from HHS would remove that link, just as Sen. Johnson’s legislation called for.

The Promoting Responsible Opioid Prescribing Act (PROP) was a bipartisan Senate companion to H.R. 4499, a measure introduced by Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), introduced in April by Sens. Johnson, Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Endorsed by the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Academy of Neurology, American Osteopathic Association, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Friends of NIDA, and American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons.

“The single most important piece of federal legislative reform that you could do” – according to Dr. Timothy Westlake, chair of the Controlled Substance Committee for the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board.