Indiana’s AG, 37 Others Urge Insurers to Help Fight Opioid Crisis

October 2, 2017

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill has joined a coalition of 37 states and territories urging health insurance companies to examine financial incentives that contribute to the opioid crisis.

The bipartisan coalition is embracing a two-step strategy aimed at increasing the use of non-opioid alternatives for treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain by identifying problematic policies and encouraging reforms.

“States must attack opioid addiction from every conceivable angle,” Hill said in a statement released by his office. “As part of this effort, we must eliminate any and all incentives that encourage physicians to prescribe opioids as a strategy of first resort when other treatment options may prove just as effective and pose fewer risks.”

Recognizing the role insurance companies can play in reducing opioid prescriptions, the AGs are writing to industry trade groups and major insurance providers, urging a review of coverage and payment policies, and calling for changes where needed to incent medical providers to prescribe alternative pain control medications and therapies.

In the letter sent to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), for instance, the AGs ask AHIP “to take proactive steps to encourage your members to review their payment and coverage policies and revise them, as necessary and appropriate, to encourage healthcare providers to prioritize non-opioid pain management options over opioid prescriptions for the treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain.”

The AGs assert that incentives that promote use of non-opioid techniques will increase the practicality of medical providers considering such treatments, including physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care and non-opioid medications.

The letter notes that the number of opioid prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999 and asserts that the “opioid epidemic is the preeminent public health crisis of our time.”

The estimated cost of the opioid crisis to the U.S. economy is $78.5 billion annually, the AGs said.