Washington, D.C.—The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a letter today to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), asking its insurance company members to review payment and coverage policies and revise them, as needed, to encourage healthcare providers to choose alternatives to prescribing prescription pain relievers known as opioids.
Opioid overdoses kill 91 Americans every single day. More than half of those deaths involve prescription opioids. Codeine, hydrocodone (e.g. Vicodin), morphine and oxycodone (e.g. OxyContin, Percocet) fall into this medication class.
“When patients seek treatment for any of the myriad conditions that cause chronic pain, doctors should be encouraged to explore and prescribe effective non-opioid alternatives, ranging from non-opioid medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care,” reads the NAAG letter signed by 37 state and territorial attorneys general.
As chief legal officers in the states and territories, attorneys general are committed to protecting patients from unfair or deceptive business practices and ensuring that insurers provide consumers with transparent information about their products and services.
State and local governments alone spend nearly $8 billion a year on criminal justice costs related to opioid abuse. Although the amount of pain reported by Americans has remained steady since 1999, prescriptions for opioid painkillers have nearly quadrupled over the same timeframe. This four-fold increase in prescriptions has contributed to a commensurate increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths.
Attorneys general hope to start a dialogue with the insurance industry to discuss incentive structures. “The status quo, in which there may be financial incentives to prescribe opioids for pain which they are ill-suited to treat, is unacceptable,” the NAAG letter concludes.
# # #