Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis Archives -
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Opioid Commission Demands Insurance Companies Cover Treatment

Opioid Commission Demands Insurance Companies Cover Treatment

If that headline seems kind of confusing, don’t worry, it should. Technically insurance companies are already required by law to provide the same coverage for substance abuse and mental health that they do for other health conditions… and therein lies the issue.

Back in August the White House Opioid Commission, established by President Trump and led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, made several recommendations to the current administration about how to address the current drug crisis as it damages communities across the country. One of those recommendations was to declare a national emergency, while others had to do with options for prevention and education.

In the aftermath of ex-DEA agent Joe Rannazzisi’s eye-opening interview exposing the shady connections between Congress and Big Pharma companies, many have been looking closely at how government officials and multi-billion dollar empires helped create the opioid epidemic. Now the White House’s Opioid Commission is putting a focus on how health insurance companies and the flaws in their policies have contributed to the intensifying addiction crisis.

So with the opioid commission saying they will call-out insurers and make demands on coverage for addiction treatment, will more people have access to help?

Restricted Addiction Treatment

One of the biggest issues the opioid commission seems to have with insurance companies is that frequently their policies only cover one type of addiction treatment and not others. It seems insurance companies are convinced that with a complex and extremely personal issue like substance use disorder or mental health conditions, there is a one-size-fits-all answer. Sadly, most advocates can tell you this isn’t the case.

Something else especially frustrating is that laws already exist to prevent insurers from treating addiction treatment different than any other health issue. Chris Christie himself said,

“Why are we still not seeing addiction services covered, and mental health services covered as broadly as every other type of disease?”

“And what do we need to do to make sure that the law is enforced and followed?”

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires health insurers to treat mental health and substance abuse disorders the same as any other disease. It means they should provide health care coverage for these conditions without additional limits, co-pays or deductibles. If companies add on additional requirements, it creates even more barriers between the suffering individual and treatment. Sadly, not every insurance company thinks it has to play by the rules.

A task force convened by President Barack Obama last year reported that numerous insurance companies still place a number of limits on addiction coverage, like more strict pre-authorization requirements. The insurance companies claim that their policies are only part of a complex problem, insisting that the issue also has to do with shortages of doctors and poor medical training from healthcare providers in the field of addiction treatment.

However, the simple fact that insurance companies are still trying to push back against supporting addiction treatment has the opioid commission ready to address the inconsistencies that are making it even harder for people who need help to get the help they deserve.

Holding Insurance Companies Accountable

The opioid commission is not holding back when it comes to trying to make insurance companies contribute to solutions since they helped contribute to the problem. The New Jersey Governor warned health insurance companies to be prepared for a final report that will “place new demands” on health insurance policies.

Christie and the opioid commission seem to be playing offense, saying Big Pharma drug companies and health insurers profit while allowing an epidemic of addiction to continue, but these new demands will hopefully change all that. Christie added,

“I’m a capitalist. I want everybody to make profits. I think it’s great. But we can’t any longer go about addressing this problem this way,”

“I hope you’re prepared to accept the challenge, because we know if it hasn’t gotten into your own house yet, it could, and then all the sudden your perspective on this problem could become markedly different.”

Not only is there more pressure on insurance companies when it comes to treatment options in their policies, but with how they handle medications in the first place.

Health insurance providers are also under a greater deal of scrutiny for policies that sometimes favor powerful and addictive painkillers over less addictive, and more expensive, variations. So not only are they limiting the options when it comes to getting treatment for substance abuse, but they are limiting coverage of medications to more addictive drugs to save money.

Insurance providers did show up to testify at the commission to help create a more comprehensive view of the issue. Involved were executives from some of the nation’s largest insurance companies:

  • Aetna
  • Anthem
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Cigna
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • UPMC Health Plan

Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, also has questions for many of those same companies. Some of these inquiries stem from a report by The New York Times last month stating insurance companies “erected more hurdles to approving addiction treatments than for the addictive substances themselves.”

Cummings wrote letters to seven of the companies which state,

“This is not a hypothetical problem. The over-prescription of opioids leads to addiction and death.”

The White House’s opioid commission has also spoken with leaders in the pharmaceutical industry. All this shows that the opioid commission is not only worried about exploring our options for fixing the issue but also in examining all the elements that helped cause the opioid epidemic in America. Christie says the final report to President Trump will include sweeping recommendations but will also be “extraordinarily instructive in terms of how we got here, which is an important thing for this commission to acknowledge.”

The commission will hold its last meeting November 1st before delivering its final report to the President. Only time will tell what demands this report plans to place on insurance companies to provide more coverage for addiction treatment services.

Will Insurance Companies Change?

The big question becomes how will this impact the services offered by insurance companies. Will the opioid commission’s suggestions help shape new policies, or will some insurance companies continue to ignore the parity laws put in place to make sure they do not discriminate against the treatment of substance abuse?

Will these changes allow for the coverage of different innovative and holistic treatment options, or will the change only support programs that depend on maintenance drugs like methadone or Suboxone?

Hopefully, the new demands being put on insurance companies will help to support mental health and substance abuse parity. When it comes to addressing addiction in America, we need every resource we can get in order to move forward with overcoming the opioid epidemic. With more officials taking a closer look at every aspect of the issue, perhaps we can get a more effective strategy for addressing the problem.

With so many people struggling with opioids and other drugs across the country, comprehensive and effective treatment is essential to making any real progress. For decades Palm Healthcare Company facilities have been providing holistic addiction treatment options that help create lasting change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

President Trump Declaring Opioid Crisis a National Emergency

President Trump Declaring Opioid Crisis a National Emergency

Back in August, the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis began urging President Trump to declare a national public health emergency to combat the opioid crisis that has crippled countless communities around America. While the President did soon enough say that he believed the opioid epidemic was indeed a national emergency, the actual official process has yet to begin. However, just this week news broke that President Trump will soon formally declare the “national emergency” status of the opioid crisis.

Reports indicate President Trump plans to make the official declaration next week. It seems appropriate following the explosive exposé following the story on ’60 Minutes’ of former DEA agent Joe Rannazzisi pointing a finger at Big Pharma companies, Congress, and lobbyists for fueling the opioid epidemic.

In fact, Republican Representative Tom Marino, who was the top pick for the Trump administrations Drug Czar, was name-dropped in a less than flattering light in the ’60 Minutes’ piece. Reports today now show Marino has withdrawn from consideration following the story.

So what does this newest revelation mean for combatting the opioid crisis?

Raising Awareness

One of the initial reasons for declaring a national emergency is pretty straight-forward; raising awareness. Not that we don’t see enough shocking news stories or warnings from local officials being issued in various states, but more attention on the issue will help channel more resources into actually helping address it.

As the commission states in their report:

“It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will,”

“You, Mr. President, are the only person who can bring this type of intensity to the emergency, and we believe you have the will to do so and to do so immediately.”

When the President of the United States says something is a priority, people take notice. Regardless of whether people always agree on politics, when we can all get behind a major issue and put effort into a more inclusive conversation, there is a better chance more can be done.

Overcoming Addiction Stigma

One of the most important aspects of fighting addiction is overcoming the addiction stigma itself. Many people who are suffering do not get the help they need because they are afraid of the stereotypes associated with drug abuse. A lot of people still doubt what the majority of the medical and scientific communities have adopted as fact; that addiction is a health issue, not a moral failing.

By declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency, President Trump has an opportunity to promote education along with public awareness. The more we can help people to understand how addiction affects the mind and body, the better odds we have of supporting those struggling with compassionate and effective treatment options.

Funding for Fighting Opioids

Perhaps one of the biggest hopes for many addiction recovery advocates is that by President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency he will influence lawmakers to allocate more funding to resources combatting addiction.

A federal declaration would also allow the government to pull funding from other areas as well, such as funding used for the Public Health Emergency Fund, or even the federal Disaster Relief Fund. So while America has been struck pretty hard by hurricanes and natural disasters, some of this same funding may end up going toward creating addiction resources.

One thing many are hoping is that these new funds will also go to promoting more addiction treatment options across the country. Some states may pursue incentives for performance-based enhanced care management (ECM) program, like one recently implemented in New Jersey. Others may put those resources into prevention and education initiatives.

One thing should seem pretty clear; treatment options should be a priority. We already know we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. The War on Drugs did not work, and many do not expect it will now either. With President Trump declaring the national emergency, hopefully, the new effort will go into protecting mental health and substance abuse parity with healthcare and insurance providers. If we have more ways to help those already desperately in need, we could see a better chance for a way out.

With the CDC stating an estimated 91 Americans dying every single day from opioid-related death, which many experts believe is grossly underreported, helping more people fighting opioid addiction find a way out is crucial. However, we should not wait on politicians, health officials or anyone else to fix it. Recovery takes action. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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