The good news – latest statistics from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health show that the rate of prescribing dangerously powerful painkillers is starting to level off.
The bad news – predictably, those addicted to painkillers have been turning to less expensive, more powerful heroin and fentanyl, and overdose deaths continue to climb.
Now, more than ever, treatment is critical for those suffering addiction. Yet, we are woefully unable to meet treatment demands.
There are many solutions, including funding more treatment beds with tax dollars through the Department of Public Health and the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services. While we have increased this funding, we still can’t keep up with demand. Meanwhile, private insurers have refused to voluntarily provide coverage for treatment deemed medically necessary by a treating clinician. So, last year we required them to provide coverage up to 14 days, even though we know at least 30 days is necessary. They objected, and challenged the law, but are not reluctantly complying. It’s still not enough.
Recently, Governor Baker filed with Medicaid to allow coverage under that program for up to at least 30 days of treatment. And, last week, the Massachusetts State Senate passed a bill I had filed requiring the same of private insurers. Not surprisingly, the private insurers immediately objected to the Senate bill, expressing concerns regarding the costs of such coverage. But, the Center for Health Information and Analysis studied the proposal, and concluded that such coverage would impact premiums by about 3 to 5 cents per month.
The bill, Senate Bill 2432, has been sent to the House of Representatives. The private health insurers are going to fight the proposal to provide up to 30 days’ coverage for addiction treatment, even though they used to provide such coverage. They’re going to fight hard. They’re going to lobby legislators, big time.
Elected legislators like to say we all know someone who’s been impacted by the opioid epidemic, and we do. So, the question becomes, do we stand for those who are suffering with addiction – our families, relatives, neighbors and friends – or with the insurance industry, which thinks 3 to 5 cents a month is too much to pay to save lives?
I’ll stand for families, relatives, neighbors and friends. I’ll stand for those who need help. I hope and trust that my colleagues will as well.
If you want to help, contact your legislators, and the Governor, and tell them to stand for the people, not the insurance lobby. Urge them to pass Senate Bill 2432, An Act Providing Access to Full Spectrum Addiction Treatment Services. Lives depend on it.