Attorney General Janet Mills Joins 37 States, Territories in Fight against Opioid Incentives

September 18, 2017

OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Andrew Roth-Wells Telephone: (207) 626-8887

Attorney General Janet Mills Joins 37 States, Territories in Fight against Opioid Incentives

AUGUSTA – Attorney General Janet Mills joined a coalition of 37 states and territories urging health insurance companies to examine the financial incentives that contribute to the opioid epidemic in Maine and across the nation.

The bipartisan coalition announced Monday a two-step strategy to identify problematic policies and to increase the use of non-opioid alternatives for treatment of chronic non-cancer pain.

“Last year Maine enacted a law limiting opioid prescriptions and that law is beginning to have a positive impact,” said Mills. “Now health insurers need to reduce any financial incentives to prescribing these addicting narcotics and offer greater coverage for alternative therapies.”

Maine had the highest rate in the nation of prescriptions issued for long-term, extended-release opioids, according to a 2014 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then the numbers have decreased but Maine is still seeing an average of almost one drug overdose death each day. The CDC estimates 75 percent of patients that abuse heroin started with prescription medications

Describing the opioid epidemic as “the preeminent public health crisis of our time,” the 37 attorneys general wrote to the insurance providers’ industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, urging insurers to review their coverage and payment policies as the starting point for focusing on incentive structures across the insurance industry.

The attorneys general noted that they have witnessed firsthand the devastation the opioid epidemic has wrought on their states in lives lost and costs imposed on the healthcare system and on the broader economy. “As the chief legal officers of our States, we are committed to using all tools at our disposal to combat this epidemic and to protect patients suffering from chronic pain or addiction.”

The attorneys general contend that incentives that promote use of non-opioid therapies will encourage medical providers to consider physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care and non-opioid medications, instead of narcotic drugs.

Increased reliance on these alternatives will combat a significant factor contributing to the epidemic – the over-prescription of opioid painkillers. The letter notes the number of opioid prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999.

Other attorneys general signing the letter are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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Supporting documents

AG letter to health insurers