Employers need to understand and appreciate that the opioid crisis isn’t just impacting disenfranchised and unemployed Americans. Working adults are addicted to opioids too. You need to take steps to combat the issue because it’s impacting more than just your healthcare costs.
Take a look at the 2016 numbers released by the Kaiser Family Foundation:
The American Society of Addiction Medicine estimates that opioid abuse costs employers another $10 billion due to absenteeism and presenteeism. That brings employers’ total costs of opioid treatment and its related consequences to $36 billion dollars.
According to Surgeon General Jerome Adams, an estimated 2.1 million people in the US struggle with opioid use and abuse. Measures have been or are being enacted to address this issue.
An estimated 2.1 million people in the US struggle with opioid use.
Not surprisingly, drug manufacturers, insurance companies, and the American Medical Association don’t support these efforts, and their reticence seems to be softening the stance the Federal government will eventually take.
About 75% of the people who entered treatment for heroine became hooked after filling a legal prescription from a physician.
Dr. Adams outlined some steps employers can take to protect their employees and their bottom lines.
Educate employees. More than 33% of people who are prescribed pain medication don’t realize they’re taking an opioid. With names like OxyContin, Vicodin, morphine or methadone, patient confusion on what medications contain opioids is inevitable.
Dr. Adams encourages you to work with your plan to help employees and their families understand what an opioid is and where it can be found. You can create a plan provision that whenever opioids are prescribed, your members must be informed that they’re taking an opioid and that they could become addicted.
Limit the number of pills prescribed at one time. Limit the number of pills/units that can be prescribed by your providers, including dentists, physicians, and hospitals.
Follow CDC guidelines. Following clinical practice care guidelines can help ensure that your members have access to safer, more effective chronic pain treatment. It also helps reduce the number of people who will misuse, abuse, or overdose from opioids. Make sure all providers in your network follow the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.
Identify pain management centers of excellence. Centers for excellence employ highly skilled experts in their fields to advance research and treatment. Identify a center that specializes in pain management for steerage opportunities.
Pay only for effective treatment programs. Fair Health reported that private insurers spent $721 million to treat opioid addition in 2015, a 1000% increase since 2010. You want to make sure that money is well spent for both you and your members.
There are more than 14,000 specialty addiction treatment programs in the United States, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). There aren’t national standards, so programs vary widely.
And so does program quality. Florida has been called the Rehab Capital of the World, and California is known as the Rehab Riviera because of the number of fraudulent rehab programs operating within their borders.
So how can you be sure the treatment you offer your members will be effective? Dr. Adams identified the following best practices to look for in a reputable treatment center:
More than 33% of people who are prescribed pain medication don’t realize they’re taking an opioid.
Assess medical and pharmacy claims. You need to integrate and analyze your medical and Rx claims data to understand if you have issues and what those issues are. Analyzing your claims data can reveal good insight that can improve your programs, like:
Work with your benefit advisors, carrier(s), and EAP program vendors to design effective programs that will help your employees and prevent future addictions to opioids.