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What DATA Waiver (X-Waiver) Elimination Means for Medical Providers

Dr. Elizabeth A. Levine

Medical providers and licensed healthcare facilities have just been given a new tool to enhance patient care and grow their practices.

Shortly before the new year, Congress passed an omnibus spending package that eliminated the DATA Waiver, or X-waiver, program.

The Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 — hence, DATA — required practitioners with a DEA license to also obtain a special waiver allowing them to prescribe buprenorphine in an office-based setting. It also puts a limit on the number of patients that a provider could treat using buprenorphine.

The elimination of the DATA Waiver will significantly reduce barriers to substance use disorder treatment, increase access to care, and allow providers to offer additional beneficial services to their patients. These changes will take effect on June 21, 2023.

DATA Waiver Failure

The original goal of the waiver program was to cut down on the inappropriate prescription of controlled substances. It is widely accepted that the program failed in this goal.

This elimination of the DATA Waiver is an attempt to address the growing problems posed by the opioid epidemic. There are few whose lives have not been touched by this epidemic in some form; this problem impacts all aspects of society. The elimination of the DATA Waiver will benefit providers, licensed facilities, and patients alike.

What Waiver Elimination Means for Providers

Following the elimination of the program, a DATA Waiver registration is no longer required for appropriately licensed medical providers to treat patients with buprenorphine for opioid use disorder. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is no longer accepting waiver applications.

All prescribers who have a current DEA registration with Schedule III prescriptive authority may prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder so long as they are permitted to do so under state law.

Additionally, limits or caps on the number of patients that any one prescriber may treat using buprenorphine will be eliminated.

In New Jersey, there is no state law or regulation requiring additional qualifications to prescribe buprenorphine to treat patients for opioid use disorders. Prescribers will now only need their standard DEA registration number, and not the DATA Waiver registration number that had been used in the past, when writing a prescription for buprenorphine.

The act also puts in place new one-time training requirements. Practitioners will be required to take part in a one-time eight-hour training program on treating and managing patients with opioid use disorder to obtain or renew their DEA registrations. Existing training for the waiver fulfills this requirement, so those providers who currently have waivers will not need to participate in this additional training.

Physicians who did not have the waiver, or were only certified to treat a limited number of patients, will now be able to expand the number of patients that can be treated.

No Waiver, Game Changer

These changes will have a significant impact on both individual prescribers and licensed facilities that treat those suffering from substance use disorders. For individual prescribers, such as physicians in private practice, this gives them another tool to aid their patients. In addition, it provides another service from which they can potentially benefit financially.

Additionally, these changes will increase access to treatment for a number of patients who are unable or unwilling to seek treatment at a substance use disorder treatment facility. They can instead receive similar services from a provider they know and trust. Services may increase in areas where access may have been previously limited. Elimination of the waiver may also empower physicians to perform more extensive screenings for opioid use disorders and encourage their patients to seek needed care.

This change will also benefit licensed facilities that treat those suffering from substance use disorders and opioid addiction. For these facilities, the elimination of the waiver program will increase the pool of available physicians and prescribers they can draw upon if they wish to offer buprenorphine as one of their services. Currently, physicians who are employed at these facilities must have the DATA Waiver if they are to provide buprenorphine services to clients.

Where providers were previously only certified to treat a limited number of patients, they will not be restricted by this limitation and the facility will be able to provide services to as many clients in the facility that need them.

Overall, this change will benefit all involved prescribers, facilities, and patients by increasing access to care in an area where services are increasingly needed. Providers will be able to utilize this expansion to aid patients and grow their practices.

If you have any questions about the elimination of the DATA Waiver, and its June 2023 effective date, please contact the author Dr. Elizabeth A. Levine.

  • Posted on: Mar 8 2023