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AG Derek Schmidt leads bipartisan coalition asking insurance companies to review payment and coverage policies on opioids

Release Date: Sep 18, 2017

TOPEKA – (September 18, 2017) − Attorney General Derek Schmidt today led a bipartisan coalition in urging health insurance companies to reexamine financial incentives that contribute to the overprescription of opioid painkillers.

Schmidt and the bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from 37 states and territories sent a letter to industry trade groups and major insurance providers nationwide urging insurers to review their coverage and payment policies for pain treatments. The purpose is to start a dialogue focused on incentive structures across the insurance industry.

Describing the opioid epidemic as “the preeminent public health crisis of our time,” the 37 attorneys general note that the number of opioid prescriptions has quadrupled since 1999, despite Americans reporting a steady amount of pain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates opioid overdoses kill 91 Americans every single day.

“We have witnessed firsthand the devastation that the opioid epidemic has wrought on our states in terms of lives lost and the costs it has imposed on our healthcare system and the broader economy," the attorneys general wrote. "As the chief legal officers of our states, we are committed to using all tools at our disposal to combat this epidemic and to protect patients suffering from chronic pain or addiction.”

In acknowledging the important role insurance companies play in reducing opioid prescriptions, the attorneys general hope to assess the positive and negative impacts incentive structures have on the opioid epidemic. For example, they suggest incentives that promote use of non-opioid pain-management techniques will increase the practicality of medical providers considering such treatments, including physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care and non-opioid medications. Increased reliance on these alternatives, when appropriate, can help combat a significant factor contributing to the over-prescription of opioid painkillers.

Schmidt joined attorneys general from Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia as co-sponsors of this effort.

 A copy of the letter is available at http://bit.ly/2fuf4o8.

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