Efforts have led to reduced opioid use, prescriptions, and abuse
In conjunction with a national Health of America report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) about opioid use, Independence Blue Cross (Independence) is reporting the success it has achieved in addressing one of nation’s top health crises. The highlights of these results include:
- Reducing opioid use and prescriptions: Since 2014, Independence has seen a 45 percent reduction in opioid users (45,000 fewer members), a 35 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions (100,000 total), and an 18 percent reduction in the morphine equivalent dose.
- Changing physician prescribing habits: Independence shares the Centers for Disease Control opioid prescribing guidelines with our network providers. In addition, we gave detailed reports to more than 1,000 prescribing doctors about their patients (our members) who exceeded the recommended morphine equivalent dose. This outreach led to nearly 60 percent of those doctors changing or decreasing their prescribing habits over a six-month period.
- Limiting initial opioid supplies: In July 2017, Independence became one of the first insurers in the country to restrict first-time, low-dose opioid prescriptions to a five-day supply limit, with an exemption for patients with cancer or terminal illnesses. This policy change resulted in a substantial reduction in opioid use and prescriptions: during the last six months of 2017, the number of members using opioids dropped 22 percent and the number of prescriptions dropped 26 percent compared to the same time period in 2016.
“We are committed to finding solutions that will curb opioid overprescribing, while protecting the appropriate use of these medications, and helping people suffering from opioid use disorder get effective treatment,” said Dr. Richard Snyder, chief medical officer for Independence. “We all want to end this epidemic that is ravaging our communities and our nation. We are losing too many of our friends, family, and community to this disease.”
Other efforts to address this epidemic include:
- No prior authorizations for Vivitrol and Suboxone, two of the most common medication-assisted treatments. We also cover methadone.
- Independence is one of the first Blue plans in the country to remove member cost-sharing for injectable and nasal spray formulations of naloxone and Narcan (a brand of naloxone).
- Our network includes nearly 100 substance abuse rehabilitation facilities and more than 5,000 behavioral health providers.
Additionally, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation’s Supporting Treatment and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Initiative is working to increase awareness and access to effective community-based opioid treatment and prevention through these and other initiatives:
- A regional study to evaluate “warm hand-off” pilots that connect overdose victims immediately with recovery programs.
- A research initiative with the Justice Center for Research at Penn State University for a multimedia public awareness campaign to share real stories of addiction and recovery — through print, video and community events — to reduce the stigma often associated with opioid abuse.
- A partnership with Walgreens that adds new drug take-back kiosks in five Walgreen stores in Philadelphia, Bucks, and Delaware counties.