Press Release

Nonpartisan Watchdog Highlights Additional Opportunities to Help Treat Infants Born With Drug-Dependence


New GAO Report Highlights Best Practices in Treating Newborns Born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

WASHINGTON, DC – The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released a new report on neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), as required as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which is now law (Public Law No: 114-198).

Included in CARA was a provision based on bipartisan legislation led by Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV), the NAS Healthy Babies Act. The bill required a GAO study about NAS and efforts to treat these babies and their mothers under the Medicaid program. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) also advocated for the report, which researches the best clinical practices providers use to care for infants with NAS, as well as focusing on available data on outcomes.

As the opioid epidemic has worsened, so too has the number of babies born with NAS. GAO writes in its report, “NAS is a rapidly increasing public health problem, with the incidence of NAS in the United States growing nearly five-fold between 2000 and 2012. …A 2015 study noted that by 2012 one infant was born about every 25 minutes with NAS.”

Infants with NAS require specialized care that typically results in longer and more costly hospital stays. GAO reports that in one 2015 study, more than 80 percent of the NAS cases were paid for by Medicaid. The new report examines the hospital and non-hospital settings for treating infants with NAS and how Medicaid pays for these critical services. The report also outlined recommended best practices in providing care for these infants.

In GAO’s evaluation of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s May 2017 strategy to address NAS as part of combatting the opioid epidemic, GAO found that HHS had no timeline for developing an implementation plan. GAO challenged HHS to “expeditiously develop a plan for implementing the recommendations included in its strategy related to addressing NAS.”

As we look to find answers to combat the opioid epidemic, it is imperative this vulnerable population be part of the solution.

For more information on the committee’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis, click here.


Press Release