Reports from the CDC say that an average of 130 deaths in the U.S. each day are attributed to opioid addiction. That’s a startling statistic.

This was a topic that came up at our last Cypress University. It’s one that Ron Peck of The Phia Group encouraged plan administrators and benefits professionals pay close attention to. As the opioid epidemic grows in severity, we were reminded how so many people are looking to pinpoint the source of the problem … playing the “blame game” because of the mounting frustration that comes with the lack of progress in fixing the issue.

So, while health plans are smart to consider any sort of financial risk and legal exposure that opioid addiction can possibly present, they are also wise to be part of the charge in proactively implementing solutions.

Here are some ways health plans are getting involved:

  • Continuing to educate – Just like many other troublesome health matters have proved over the years, education goes a long way. Health plans are teaming up with employers to educate employees about the risks of using opioids and taking unsafe amounts. They’re also teaching how detrimental it can be to combine opioids with certain drugs and the way to store/dispose of them to limit the chances of theft.
  • Covering alternatives – Because of such high addiction rates associated with opioids, health plans are also looking into expanding coverage for additional, alternative methods to help patients manage pain. These include options like acupuncture, chiropractic care, physical therapy and other interventions which may not traditionally be covered under health plans.
  • Advocating care/prescription coordination – Part of the problem with opioid addiction is the disconnect that often occurs within a patient’s provider network, and the dangerous overlap that can occur when multiple prescriptions are being written by different providers. Health plans are working to advocate care coordination and prescription drug monitoring programs that can avoid duplicate opioid prescriptions and other issues like refilling too soon.

I think we all understand that, for as serious as the opioid addiction crisis has become, we aren’t going to find an effective fix overnight. Despite the enormity of this battle and an historical tendency to ‘avert ones eyes’ regarding the topic, I’ve been pleased to hear from Cypress’s employer-clients who are asking how they can implement programs and solutions to address the issue, and also impressed by the conversations I’ve had with benefits professionals about the efforts being made to take on this alarming epidemic. Every step forward counts!

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