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Facing Pressure, Insurance Plans Loosen Rules For Covering Addiction Treatment

By Kaiser Health News  
   February 21, 2017

Regardless of intent, critics say, those extra forms and hoops do make it more difficult for patients in need to get these medications ― ultimately, they say, doing more harm than good.

"If you would like a physician to not do a particular treatment, put a prior authorization in front of it," Rich said. "That's what they're used for."

Meanwhile, addiction treatment advocates and health professionals are hoping to build on what they see as new momentum.

Earlier this month, the American Medical Association sent a letter to the National Association of Attorneys General, calling for increased attention to insurance plans that require prior authorization for Suboxone or other similar drugs.

Minnesota's attorney general has written to health plans in the state, asking they end prior authorization for addiction treatment. New York has also heard from other states interested in tackling the issue, the attorney general spokesperson said. And another project, called Parity Track, is soliciting complaints from consumers.

They're arguing based on a requirement that insurance plans, thanks to so-called "parity laws," must cover addiction treatment, and cover it at the same level as they do other kinds of health care.

The prior authorization requirement "doesn't meet the sniff test for parity," said Corey Waller, an emergency physician who chairs the American Society of Addiction Medicine's legislative advocacy committee. "It's a first-line, Food and Drug Administration-approved therapy for a disease with a known mortality. Every other disease with a known mortality ― the first-line drugs are available right away."

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.


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