Tackling One other Public Well being Emergency: Current State and Federal Insurance policies to Enhance Opioid Use Dysfunction Remedy Entry


By Rachel Swindle and Kristen Ukeomah*

Whereas the federal COVID-19 Public Well being Emergency (PHE) ended in Might, the U.S. Secretary of Well being and Human Companies (HHS) lately renewed the PHE declaration for the opioid disaster and the Biden administration introduced new proposed guidelines with the purpose of enhancing entry to remedy. Overdose deaths—the majority of that are because of opioids—stay alarmingly excessive, and the reported variety of artificial opioid overdose deaths has continued to extend over the previous yr. Policymakers have explored quite a lot of approaches to curb this disaster and broaden entry to evidence-based remedy for folks with opioid use dysfunction (OUD). A long time of medical analysis exhibits that FDA-approved medicines for OUD (MOUD**), akin to buprenorphine and methadone, are the simplest remedy choices. Final yr, CHIRblog detailed a number of the personal insurance-related obstacles to medicines used to deal with opioid use dysfunction, in addition to federal and state initiatives to ameliorate entry points. This weblog expands and updates that data, highlighting latest federal and state-level coverage developments that intention to take away a number of the obstacles to this life-saving remedy for folks with OUD.

Current Federal Coverage Modifications and Proposals Purpose to Enhance MOUD Entry

Proposed Enhancements to Federal Parity Legislation Enforcement

Most lately, the Biden administration proposed new rules beneath the Psychological Well being Parity and Habit Fairness Act (MHPAEA) of 2008. The legislation requires parity between psychological well being and substance use dysfunction (MH/SUD) advantages and medical/surgical advantages, together with parity in remedy limits, utilization administration methods, and cost-sharing necessities between MH/SUD-related care and medical/surgical care. However many insurers have didn’t comply with the parity necessities, and enforcement is difficult and inconsistent. The new proposed rule would require well being plans to gather knowledge and conduct comparative analyses on supplier networks (the quantity MH/SUD suppliers in plan networks and reimbursement charges), prior authorization requests and the outcomes of these requests, and different remedy limits imposed on MH/SUD advantages. These experiences can be made out there to federal regulators, which is able to enhance the flexibility of regulators to make sure compliance with the legislation’s parity necessities–an essential step for sufferers to have significant entry to OUD remedy.

Well being Insurer Supplier Networks

An inadequate provide of MOUD suppliers, significantly in-network suppliers, continues to complicate or preclude OUD sufferers’ remedy entry. The Facilities for Medicare & Medicaid Companies (CMS) is hoping to enhance remedy entry for enrollees on the Reasonably priced Care Act’s Market by including Substance Use Dysfunction Remedy Facilities as new class of “Important Group Supplier” (ECP) for plan yr 2024. Insurers collaborating within the Market should contract with a minimal 35 % of ECPs throughout the plan’s service space, and in addition make a very good religion effort to contract with not less than one remedy heart in every county within the service space, if out there. This coverage is anticipated to broaden entry to substance use dysfunction (SUD) remedy, akin to MOUD, for the record-large inhabitants of Market enrollees.

Rising the Provide of MOUD Suppliers

Rising entry to MOUD additionally requires a adequate variety of suppliers who can prescribe MOUD. Beforehand, suppliers have been required by federal legislation to acquire an “X-waiver” in an effort to prescribe buprenorphine – one of the vital efficient medicines for treating OUD. In a 2020 report from the U.S. Authorities Accountability Workplace, practitioners reported that the time-intensive trainings and administrative hurdles related to securing an X-waiver discouraged some suppliers from making use of for one. Additional, as soon as the waiver was obtained these suppliers have been topic to strict caps on the variety of sufferers they might deal with. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 eradicated the requirement to acquire this X-waiver in addition to the affected person caps, growing the availability of suppliers who can prescribe MOUD medicines and making it simpler for insurers to construct ample networks with MOUD suppliers. Whereas extra could be achieved to educate potential suppliers of MOUD, eradicating the X-waiver opens the door for extra suppliers in new settings (akin to main care) to prescribe this evidence-based remedy.

States Take Motion to Decrease Insurance coverage-related Limitations to Remedy

Along with efforts on the federal stage, states have taken motion to scale back insurance-related obstacles to OUD remedy. A number of of those state reforms, highlighted beneath, assist illustrate methods through which policymakers in different states might enhance affected person entry to care.

Mandating Protection of all FDA-approved MOUD

Industrial well being plans typically don’t cowl the complete spectrum of MOUD choices. A number of states require well being plans to cowl not less than one of many FDA-approved MOUDs, however the medicines are supplied in numerous settings: some suppliers can prescribe buprenorphine, whereas methadone is simply out there at opioid remedy applications (OTPs). Plans that cowl just one MOUD depart gaps in OUD affected person entry, for instance, if the plan solely covers buprenorphine however enrollees solely have entry to an OTP. Earlier this summer time, Nevada enacted laws mandating that state-regulated well being plans cowl all FDA-approved MOUD.

Limits on Value Sharing

Sufferers proceed to report that out-of-pocket prices hinder their potential to entry wanted medical care. These prices can mount shortly for care sought at OTPs (at present, OTPs are the one method to acquire methadone, the medicine with probably the most proof of efficacy). Sufferers are required to often examine in with an in-house counselor and periodically full drug screenings. Relying on how the OTP payments for providers, these visits and lab work can topic sufferers to out-of-pocket prices on high of their price sharing for the medicine itself. States have tackled cost-sharing obstacles in numerous methods. Since 2017, Massachusetts’s ACA Market has required insurers providing ConnectorCare merchandise (sponsored protection out there for folks with incomes beneath 300 % of the federal poverty) to remove cost-sharing for the medicine itself in addition to any workplace visits related to MOUD remedy. In 2022, New York Governor Hochul signed laws prohibiting state-regulated plans from charging copayments for OTP visits.

Restrictions on Utilization Administration

Insurers typically use utilization administration methods to rein in prices by decreasing well being care consumption and stopping the usage of inappropriate remedies. One such approach is the requirement that suppliers acquire authorization from the affected person’s insurer earlier than treating or prescribing sure sorts of care. These “prior authorization” necessities could cause considerably delayed and even forgone care. For OUD sufferers, time spent ready on prior authorizations could be lethal as a result of threat of overdose. In a latest report summarizing knowledge submitted by personal well being insurers with not less than 1% of the market share within the particular person, small- and large-group markets, Washington’s Workplace of the Insurance coverage Commissioner discovered that prior authorization requests for psychological well being and substance use dysfunction remedy have been accredited at decrease charges in comparison with medical/surgical requests, and that the response wait time for MH/SUD codes is greater than twice that of medical/surgical codes—45.4 hours in comparison with 20.3 hours, respectively.

Some states have adopted insurance policies to scale back the burden of prior authorization necessities for sufferers. Since 2020, insurers in Colorado have been prohibited from utilizing prior authorization for FDA-approved medicines to deal with SUD if that medicine is included within the plan’s formulary for the remedy of OUD. Different states can go additional. Minnesota lately enacted a legislation requiring the state’s Formulary Committee for the state’s Medicaid program to make sure not less than one type of methadone be made out there with out prior authorization. Although the committee’s purview extends solely to Medicaid—a research final yr discovered that half of Medicaid beneficiaries have been subjected to prior authorization for MOUD—this coverage might be replicated for the state-regulated personal market.

Prior authorization shouldn’t be the one utilization administration approach that may impede care entry. Newly enacted laws in Vermont prohibits state-regulated insurers from imposing “step remedy” necessities on enrollees with MOUD prescriptions, a course of the place sufferers should strive an alternate medicine for his or her situation earlier than they’ll proceed with the initially prescribed course of remedy.

Bolstering Supplier Networks and Rising the Variety of Suppliers for MOUD

Sufferers in search of remedy for OUD could be stymied by an insufficient provide of suppliers and an absence of in-network suppliers beneath their insurance coverage plan. Congress’s elimination of the X-waiver was an essential step, however some states have tried to sort out the difficulty in different methods. Colorado imposed new necessities that insurers yearly report back to the state’s Division of Insurance coverage (DOI) on enrollees’ MOUD supplier entry, together with the variety of in-network suppliers of MOUD and the corporate’s initiatives to “guarantee adequate capability for and entry to [MOUD].” The DOI has acquired the primary yr of provider knowledge from these experiences and is analyzing the findings. Some states have sought to enhance OUD remedy entry by increasing the universe of suppliers who can prescribe MOUD. For instance, by January 2024 Nevada will newly permit pharmacists to prescribe medicines to deal with OUD (and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 ensures that these pharmacists is not going to face the extra burden of the necessities of the X-waiver). This supplies folks with OUD one other level of entry to provoke remedy and expands the pool of suppliers out there to prescribe MOUD.


The U.S. opioid disaster continues unabated. Insurance coverage protection considerably expands entry to well being care, however along with stigma, logistical obstacles, and affected person demographics, insurers’ profit design, supplier shortages, and insurer-provider contracting practices could make it troublesome or unimaginable for sufferers with OUD to acquire care. Federal and state policymakers are implementing reforms that broaden entry to lifesaving take care of sufferers with OUD—an essential step to assuaging and ultimately ending the opioid disaster.

* Kristen Ukeomah helps analysis on the Sustainability of Opioid Settlement Funds funded by the Elevance Well being Basis on the Duke-Margolis Heart for Well being Coverage.

**Creator’s observe: In prior CHIRblog posts, the time period medication-assisted remedy (MAT) is used steadily. In recent times there was a shift in direction of utilizing the time period MOUD (“medicines for opioid use dysfunction”) as an alternative of MAT. This transformation is a part of broader efforts by clinicians, advocates, and policymakers to scale back stigma related to MOUD and give attention to the medicine itself as the important thing to remedy. Extra data is accessible right here and right here.


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