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Health Insurance Providers Release New Solutions To Manage Chronic Pain And Tackle The Opioid Crisis

by Cathryn Donaldson

March 11, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The consequences of the opioid epidemic are significant, from the pain and personal suffering of families to reducing America’s life expectancy. Real solutions require collaborative approaches, including prioritizing non-opioid therapies and improving comprehensive addiction treatment.

That’s why America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) has released two new sets of strategies:

  1. to help manage chronic low back pain without opioids; and
  2. to increase access to substance use disorder (SUD) treatment.

These two areas are critically important to address opioid abuse and offer real opportunities for collaboration and improvement. Chronic low back pain is often treated with prescription opioids, despite the potential risk and evidence this is may not be effective. There is also a need to expand access to SUD treatment – including medication assisted treatment (MAT) – because some patients and care providers may not be aware of the options available. However, there is a documented shortage of behavioral health clinicians who can provide this treatment and an immature quality infrastructure for treatment programs.

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. We must do better,” said Elizabeth Goodman, AHIP Executive Vice President of Government Affairs and Innovation. “That’s why AHIP and our members launched the Safe, Transparent Opioid Prescribing (STOP) Initiative in 2017. We’re continuing our important work by releasing these new, holistic strategies to address chronic pain, prevent addiction, and support those on a path to recovery.

Health insurance providers, physicians, and patients must work together to tackle this epidemic and identify actionable solutions. Below are some key takeaways from the new strategies, aimed at prioritizing non-opioid pain management therapies and expanding access to addiction treatment:

  • Develop an easy-to-use repository of existing evidence-based clinical guidelines, toolkits, and recommendations so clinicians can reference to help treat patients with low back pain
  • Build an industry-wide consensus on how to measure effective pain care, prioritizing non-opioid therapies
  • Improve care coordination among pain management specialists and primary care to help support patients with chronic pain, particularly for those with complex conditions
  • Integrate SUD treatment into primary care practices, and have health insurance providers assist clinicians offering MAT
  • Work together to create patient-centered treatment and recovery plans
  • Leverage new technology such as telehealth to expand access to SUD counseling and coaching
  • Advocate for regulatory changes to improve SUD treatment

The full recommendations can be found in the two briefs below:

To learn more about how health insurance providers across the country are addressing the epidemic and reducing opioid addiction nationwide, the AHIP Safe, Transparent Opioid Prescribing Initiative (STOP) Playbook has been updated to include case studies and new evidence: 2019 STOP Playbook 2.0.