~ Attorney General Herring co-sponsors effort to urge health insurance companies to include non-opioid alternatives to chronic pain in coverage plans~
Richmond, Va. – Attorney General Mark R. Herring led a coalition of 37 state and territory attorneys general in urging health insurance companies to examine financial incentives that contribute to the opioid epidemic that took more than 60,000 lives last year, including 1,100 in Virginia.
The bipartisan coalition announced Monday a two-step strategy intended to identify problematic policies and encourage reforms to spur increased use of non-opioid alternatives for treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain.
“Everyone has a role to play in helping combat the devastating heroin and opioid crisis that is affecting states across the country, including here in Virginia,” said Attorney General Herring. “It’s time for health insurance companies to look at what they can do to help promote non-opioid alternatives for pain treatment and stop the over-prescription of opioid painkillers. I’m proud to be a leader in this effort, and hope this bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general can work with the insurance industry to help save lives.”
Describing the opioid epidemic as “the preeminent public health crisis of our time,” the 37 attorneys general will send a letter to industry trade groups and major insurance providers nationwide. It urges insurers to review their coverage and payment policies as the starting point in a coalition-initiated dialogue focused on incentive structures across the insurance industry.
“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,” Attorney General Herring joined the coalition in writing. “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.”
The attorneys general, in acknowledging the important role insurance companies play in reducing opioid prescriptions, hope to assess the positive and negative impacts incentive structures have on the opioid epidemic. They contend 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.
Increased reliance on these alternatives will combat a significant factor contributing to the epidemic – the over-prescription of opioid painkillers. The letter notes the number of opioid prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999, despite Americans reporting a steady amount of pain.
Attorney General Herring joined attorneys general from Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Utah and West Virginia as co-sponsors of this effort.
Other attorneys general signing the letter are Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin.
Attorney General Herring has made combating the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic a top priority, attacking the problem with a multifaceted approachthat includes enforcement, education, prevention, and legislation to encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, expand the availability of naloxone, and expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. He has supported federal efforts to improve the availability of treatment and recovery resources and made prescription drug disposal kits available across the Commonwealth. During his time in office, Attorney General Herring and his team are working or have worked 90 cases against dealers and traffickers involving more than 434 pounds of heroin worth more than $29.5 million on the street.