Three Firms Face the Opioid Epidemic Head On
The U.S. has an escalating public health crisis, with prescription opioid overdoses exceeding 59,000 in 2016 and rising. Healthcare organizations continue to implement strategy and practice interventions in an effort to combat opioid misuse and addiction, possibly pushing the Trump administration to announce the opioid addiction epidemic as a public health emergency, a declaration that opens the door to millions in federal funding. In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance, Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark T. Bertolini noted the role health insurance companies can play in addressing the issue. Specifically, insurers can see who is prescribing too many opioids and can reach out to those providers to cut back. Bertolini also believes it is important to get individuals on other forms of pain management drugs and therapies, referencing Aetna’s five-year goal to reduce opioid use of members by 50%.
Aetna’s Opioid Epidemic Five-Year Goals
A recent study published by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) names Massachusetts as a leader in combatting the opioid epidemic. The study, which analyzes BCBS claims data from members nationwide, concludes that 84% of Massachusetts members diagnosed with opioid use disorder received medication-assisted treatment, the second highest rate in the nation behind Vermont. In addition to improving access to medication-assisted treatment for members, BCBS of Massachusetts has taken the definitive step of reducing the number of prescriptions of high-dose, long-duration opioid-based medications per its Prescription Pain Medication Safety Program, introduced in 2012.
BCBSA Opioid Use Study Chart
In 2010 Kaiser Permanente implemented its Safe and Appropriate Opioid Prescribing Program, which the organization labels as one of its most successful efforts to address addiction for members and the communities in which it operates. The program’s goal to reduce opioid prescribing and transform the way that chronic pain is viewed and treated implements changes to prescribing and dispensing policies and monitors follow-up processes and clinical coordination through electronic health record integration. Today, the program has seen a 30% reduction in high-dose opioid prescriptions, a 98% reduction in the number of prescriptions with greater than 200 pills and a 72% reduction in long-acting, extended-release opioid prescriptions.
As some firms continue to address the epidemic and commit to programs that help reduce overdoses, more insurers will need to address health and wellness and crisis education to continue in the fight to reduce the number of drug-related deaths in the U.S.