More on Policy and Legislation

House leaders ask insurers for help in combating opioid crisis

Insurers are asked to submit by Feb. 21 written responses to questions such as treatment coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Ranking members of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Committee of Energy and Commerce have written to 14 CEOs of large health insurance companies asking them for help in combating the opioid crisis.

The Feb. 2 letter asks what the insurers are doing to address the opioid crisis and treat opioid use disorders in the Medicare population.

[Also: Anthem cuts opioid prescriptions by 30 percent, 2 years ahead of goal]

As the ranking members of their committees, they had the responsibility of overseeing the Medicare Advantage and Part D programs, which cover about a third of Medicare beneficiaries, said

Committee on Ways and Means Ranking Member Richard Neal and Committee on Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone Jr., in the Feb. 2 letter.

[Also: Intermountain Healthcare pitching in $2 million to fight opioid misuse]

"We request your assistance in helping us to understand the scope of opioid use disorders in the populations you serve, a description of the activities and best practices your plan has employed to curtail opioid abuse and promote evidence-based treatment for those who are misusing opioids, and an assessment of the challenges you face in addressing this epidemic," they wrote.

They asked for written responses to numerous questions by Feb. 21. 

The House leaders want an estimate of the number of beneficiaries at-risk for opioid use disorder or dependence, the number undergoing treatment and services and treatment covered by their plans. They also wanted to know the barriers to addressing the epidemic and any gaps in Medicare's coverage of treatment.

They asked about out-of-pocket costs or other financial limitations that bar patients' access to care, the insurer's policy on over-prescribing, and how information is shared with providers and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

They also asked for comments on needed legislation.

The letters went out to Mark Bertolini of Aetna, Gail Boudreaux of Anthem, Pamela Morris of CareSource, Michael Neidorff of Centene, David Cordani of Cigna, Christopher Palmieri of the Commonwealth Care Alliance, Eric Schultz of Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, Bruce Broussard of Humana, Daniel Hilferty of Independence Blue Cross, Bernard Tyson of Kaiser Permanente, Chris Wing of Scan Health Plan, David Wichmann of UnitedHealth Group, Diane Holder of UPMC Health Plan and Kenneth Burdick of WellCare.

Many of the large insurers have already implemented opioid policies.

In August 2017, Anthem said it had cut opioid prescriptions by 30 percent, two years ahead of its goal.

Aetna also said last year it was working to reverse the rising trend in opioid prescriptions. 

In November, as part of a Substance Use Disorder Treatment Task Force initiative, 16 major payers adopted policies to treat addiction.

These included Aetna, Amerihealth Caritas Family of Companies, Anthem, Beacon Health Options, BCBS of Mass., CareOregon, CareSource, Centene, Cigna, Commonwealth Care Alliance, Envolve Health, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey, Magellan Health, UnitedHealth Group, UPMC Insurance Division and WellCare.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer:

Show All Comments