Health Plans Launch New STOP Initiative To Help Battle Opioid Crisis In America

by Cathryn Donaldson

October 19, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Health plans nationwide are working closely with state and federal leaders, as well as with physicians and other providers on multiple strategies to address the opioid crisis. To build on these efforts, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) has launched its Safe, Transparent Opioid Prescribing (STOP) Initiative. The STOP Initiative is designed to support widespread adoption of clinical guidelines for pain care and opioid prescribing.

As its first action under the STOP Initiative, AHIP has launched the STOP Measure, a robust, evidence-based methodology health plans can use to measure how provider practices compare to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. This measurement helps health plans and providers collaborate to improve adherence with the CDC guidelines, significantly improving patient safety and reducing the risk of opioid misuse.

Health plans have consistently supported the CDC’s opioid guidelines to promote evidence-based pain care and reduce unnecessary opioid prescribing. The STOP Measure takes these efforts much further by establishing an industry-wide approach to measuring performance against the CDC guidelines, tracking and reducing the number of opioid prescriptions.

“Too many Americans are suffering from this epidemic, and too many families have lost loved ones because of it.” said Dr. Richard Bankowitz, Chief Medical Officer of AHIP. “That’s why health plans are doing everything in their power to attack this issue head on. The STOP Initiative is another way our health plans are coming together to improve patient care and reduce the risk of opioid abuse.”

In collaboration with clinical experts, members of the AHIP Opioid Work Group – consisting of 40-member health plans – created the STOP Measure utilizing six of the twelve CDC recommendations as a foundation. Using this methodology, the health insurance industry can identify:

  • Percent of prescriptions for immediate-release opioids versus extended-release or long-acting opioids
  • To what extent opioids are prescribed concurrently with benzodiazepines
  • When and how often urine drug tests are being administered when appropriate before or during opioid therapy
  • The dosages and duration being prescribed for those patients with acute or chronic pain

The STOP Measure will be shared widely with health plans and initial results will be gathered throughout the coming months. As experience is gained, the initial version of the measure will be updated, revised, and validated. As part of the overall STOP Initiative, AHIP and the Opioid Work Group will continue to introduce best practices as the health care industry works together to combat the opioid epidemic.