Attorney General Andy Beshear and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey are calling on health insurance companies to assist in finding workable solutions to the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Beshear and Morrisey, who will officially make the announcement at 1:30 p.m. today in West Virginia, are joining with 36 other state attorneys general to press health insurance companies to adopt a financial incentive structure for the use of non-opioid pain management techniques when viable for chronic, non-cancer pain.
The AGs are reaching out to insurance companies to promote non-opioid pain management alternatives that may not be currently covered at the same level as prescription opioids.
“Nearly 80 percent of heroin users first become addicted through prescription pills,” Beshear said. “If we can reduce opioid prescriptions and use other forms of pain management treatment, we will slow or even reverse the rate of addiction.”
Beshear said the issue is not a Republican or Democratic issue, and thanks AG Morrisey for continuing his nonstop efforts to work with the Kentucky Office of Attorney General to find workable solutions to the opioid epidemic.
Kentucky, like West Virginia, is facing the challenge of “our lifetime” with its drug epidemic, Beshear said, who joined Morrisey and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine last year for an addiction summit in West Virginia.
“We have to ensure that financial incentives, or a lack thereof, for the provision of certain items and services do not contribute unintentionally to this deadly problem,” Morrisey said.
Insurance companies can play an important role in reducing opioid prescriptions and making it easier for patients to access other forms of pain management treatment, the AGs said.
“Simply asking providers to consider providing alternative treatments is impractical in the absence of a supporting incentive structure,” the AGs said. “All else being equal, providers will often favor those treatment options that are most likely to be compensated either by the government, an insurance provider or a patient paying out-of-pocket.”
The AGs want to create a dialogue with the entire insurance industry concerning its incentive structure along with state insurance commissioners in an effort to identify best practices.
Beshear is co-chair on the National Association of Attorneys General Substance Abuse Committee.
Beshear’s participation in this initiative is the latest effort in his ongoing work to address the opioid crisis in Kentucky.
In August, he launched the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program, the state’s first initiative to allow Kentuckians to safely dispose of opioid medications at home. The program has the potential to dispose of more than 2.2 million unused opioids.
In June, Beshear announced that his office intends to file multiple lawsuits against drug manufacturers, distributors and retailers where there is evidence that they contributed to the opioid epidemic by illegally marketing and selling opioids to Kentuckians.
To support this litigation, Beshear issued a request for proposal (RFP) for legal services to assist the Commonwealth in multiple lawsuits and to ensure that Kentucky tax dollars are not used for the costs of the litigations.
The AG’s office previously settled a $24 million lawsuit with Purdue Pharma regarding OxyContin. Beshear’s office has provided $8 million from that settlement directly to 15 substance treatment centers across Kentucky.
From a different drug company settlement, the office dedicated $2 million to expand and enhance Rocket Docket programs that expedite drug cases, generate significant cost savings and allow select defendants rapid access to substance abuse treatment.
Beshear is currently working with local law enforcement and community leaders to host substance abuse awareness forums across the state. The office has also been instrumental in numerous drug related arrests, including working with federal authorities on arresting a fentanyl dealer whose drugs had killed several Kentuckians.
Bordering state AGs participating in this effort include Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Virginia and West Virginia.