Action aims to remove access barriers, save lives, and further combat the opioid abuse epidemic
Philadelphia, PA — Independence Blue Cross (Independence) announced that as of March 1 it is removing member cost sharing for injectable and nasal spray formulations of naloxone and Narcan (a brand of naloxone). Independence is one of the first Blue plans in the country to implement this change. It was also one of the first insurers in the country to limit initial low dose opioid prescriptions to five days.
Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose when administered in time. This lifesaving drug is available in Pennsylvania without a written prescription due to a statewide standing order from PA Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine in October 2015. In Philadelphia, naloxone has been widely used and distributed. It was administered approximately 4,000 times by the Philadelphia Fire Department and 200 times by Philadelphia police in 2016, according to a report issued last May by the Mayor’s Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic in Philadelphia.
“By removing a financial barrier to accessing naloxone, we can make the drug more readily available and hopefully save more lives,” said Dr. Richard Snyder, chief medical officer for Independence Blue Cross and a member of the Mayor’s Task Force. “Our hope is that anyone struggling with opioid addiction can get appropriate treatment, but they have to be alive to take that step.”
This change applies to customers with Independence’s pharmacy benefits and is effective March 1 for fully insured business and April 1 for self-funded businesses that choose to participate. Members who have already met their deductible would have no copay at the drug store when they get their prescription. The change does not apply to Evzio®, a naloxone auto-injection system.
This cost-sharing change applies only to members who are purchasing Narcan for themselves or for a covered member. The change does not apply to Medicare members.
Approximately 1,700 people in southeastern Pennsylvania died in 2016 from an opioid overdose, according to local health officials. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health reported that there were 1,200 overdose deaths in Philadelphia alone in 2017, 300 more than in 2016.
Independence is keenly focused on opioid abuse prevention and treatment and its efforts continue to intensify. As a result, inappropriate opioid prescribing and use among members has been reduced by more than 40 percent. Steps taken include:
- In November 2017, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation hosted Governor Wolf for a major opioid event in Philadelphia that included an announcement about a research initiative with the Justice Center for Research at Penn State University for a multi-media public awareness campaign to share stories of addiction and recovery to reduce the shame often associated with opioid abuse.
- In July 2017, Independence became one of the first insurers in the country to restrict most initial low-dose opioid prescriptions to no more than five days. During the last 6 months of 2017, the number of members using opioids dropped 22 percent and the number of prescriptions for opioids dropped 26 percent.
- Independence covers methadone treatment with no copays for in-network providers as well as the most commonly prescribed medication-assisted treatments (combining counseling and behavioral treatments with medication).
- There is close coordination with law enforcement to reduce fraud and abuse.
- In March 2016, Independence provided $50,000 to the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Institute to provide Narcan to emergency personnel in Philadelphia.
- Promotes Centers for Disease Control prescribing guidelines which inform doctors which patients receive opioids outside of those guidelines so they can take action.
- Advocates for legislation requiring physicians and pharmacists to check and document dispensing of opioids in centralized databases and requiring inter- state sharing of the data to reduce fraud, abuse and diversion of opioids.
- Supports abuse and recovery awareness efforts, community-based opioid abuse treatment and prevention efforts including drug take back initiative through The Independence Blue Cross Foundation’s Supporting Treatment and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Initiatives. The IBC Foundation also funds research to advance hospital programs that connect overdose victims to immediate recovery resources, known as “warm hand-offs.
Visit the Independence website for resources to help support individuals and families dealing with substance abuse and read more about what the Independence Blue Cross Foundation is doing to fight opioid abuse.