Prescription Opioid Abuse: Challenges and Opportunities for Payers

In the Know published on June 14, 2013 in Misuse
Katz NP, Birnbaum H, Brennan MJ, et al. Am J Manag Care. 2013;19(4):295-302

Objectives: Prescription opioid abuse and addiction are serious problems with growing societal and medical costs, resulting in billions of dollars of excess costs to private and governmental health insurers annually. Although difficult to accurately assess, prescription opioid abuse also leads to increased insurance costs in the form of property and liability claims, and costs to state and local governments for judicial, emergency, and social services. This manuscript’s objective is to provide payers with strategies to control these costs, while supporting safe use of prescription opioid medications for patients with chronic pain.

Method: A Tufts Health Care Institute Program on Opioid Risk Management meeting was convened in June 2010 with private and public payer representatives, public health and law enforcement officials, pain specialists, and other stakeholders to present research and develop recommendations on solutions that payers might implement to combat this problem.

Results: While protecting access to prescription opioids for patients with pain, private and public payers can implement strategies to mitigate financial risks associated with opioid abuse, using internal strategies such as formulary controls, claims data surveillance, and claims matching; and external policies and procedures that support and educate physicians on reducing opioid risks among patients with chronic pain.

Conclusions: Reimbursement policies, incentives, and health technology systems that encourage physicians to use universal precautions, to consult prescription monitoring program (PMP) data, and to implement Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment protocols have a high potential to reduce insurer risks while addressing a serious public health problem.

PMID: 23725361 [PubMed - in process] Free full text
Last modified: March 28, 2018
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