Substance Use Disorders: Health Insurance Providers Offer Care & Support

posted by AHIP

on October 26, 2020

Many people who suffer from substance use disorders (SUD) face new challenges as we continue to battle the COVID-19 crisis, from social distancing to shifting priorities for health care resources.

In 2017, an estimated 1.7 million Americans suffered from substance use disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 130 people die each day after overdosing on opioids, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that substance abuse costs the United States more than $600 billion per year.

The figures are striking, as is the impact on patients, families, and communities around the country.

UCare and Hennepin Country

This case study from the Center for Health Care Strategies explores a partnership in Minnesota between UCare and the Hennepin County Health and Human Services Department. UCare invested in improvements to Hennepin County’s detoxification and treatment programs and facilities – reaching members in need to get them the right care at the right time. UCare grants provided:

  • Funding for additional staff, including Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LADC) to be embedded in the emergency department to identify patients in need of treatment for substance use disorder and connect them to the appropriate services.
  • Renovations to existing treatment facilities to create a more comfortable and up-to-date care environment.
  • Additional services to address patient needs, including social risk factors.

The program has earned positive feedback from patients and shown fewer inpatient admissions for SUD-related diagnoses.

“Everybody wins,” says Jennifer Garber, Associate Vice President of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders at UCare. “UCare funding helped Hennepin County transition its detox center to a withdrawal management center – now a welcoming, holistic and respectful service for community members. This effort and the Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor positions UCare supported in Hennepin Healthcare’s ER are truly transforming how medicine is practiced to improve health.”

Around the country, health insurance providers are teaming up with community organizations and service providers to reach and help patients in need.

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina invested $8 million in programs that serve people in rural communities, including projects that work to prevent overdose deaths.
  • In West Virginia, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield launched a telehealth-based opioid use disorder treatment program to reach patients in rural and underserved communities in the state.
  • Highmark Delaware provided grants to 8 community organizations to help them fight the opioid crisis and to provide safe and effective pain management.
  • Quartz Health Solutions removed prior authorization requirements for medication-assisted treatment in Wisconsin to make it easier for patients to access care.

Health insurance providers have seen the devastating impact substance user disorder has on millions of Americans. They remain committed to improving the health and well-being of the members and communities they serve.

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