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Payers Address Opioid Safety Via Education, $0 Narcan Co-Pays

Commercial payers are ramping up their opioid safety programs by investing in opioid education and outreach as well as waiving co-pays for Narcan.

Commerical payers expand opioid safety with $0 Narcan co-pays, education

Source: Thinkstock

By Thomas Beaton

- Commercial payers are addressing the nation’s opioid crisis and promoting opioid safety by funding patient education programs and waiving Narcan co-pays to reduce barriers to access.

Patient-centered strategies have allowed payers like Blue Cross Blue Shield to reduce opioid use by 32 percent and reduce higher-dosage opioid prescriptions linked to the development of opioid dependency.

Payer organizations of multiple sizes have funded and launched opioid safety programs that help address educational and financial gaps of beneficiaries around opioid use.  

AmeriHealth New Jersey waives Narcan co-pays throughout 2018

AmeriHealth New Jersey is waiving Narcan co-pays for its members from March 1st, 2018 until the end of year in order to eliminate barriers to Narcan for members that overdose on opioids.

AmeriHealth’s decision comes in response to the 2056 people who died from a drug overdose in 2016, representing a 42 percent increase since 2015.

Dr. Frank L. Urbano, MD, MBA, FACP, senior medical director for AmeriHealth New Jersey, believes that waiving Narcan co-pays could help lower fatality rates from overdoses.

“AmeriHealth New Jersey has taken several steps to help prevent opioid abuse and to remove barriers for our members to get the help they need, but we felt we could do more,” Urbano said. “The opioid epidemic is the most severe drug crisis in American history, and opioid abuse is only growing in our region.”

AmeriHealth members with pharmacy benefits who have met their deductible will be eligible for $0 Narcan co-pays. The benefit covers injectable and nasal Narcan forms.

Aetna Foundation devotes $6 million to opioid-safety projects and programs

The Aetna Foundation announced that it will use $6 million to fund opioid safety projects at the state and local level.

Aetna’s philanthropic branch has already committed $1 million to the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC) for its Rural Opioid Overdose Prevention Program.

The program aims to prevent opioid-related deaths by providing community-level risk education in five rural counties in North Carolina. The program also distributes naloxone overdose-reversal kits to rural, high-risk opioid users.

Law enforcement and healthcare professionals support the program by promoting best practices about overdose prevention.

"This program will be one of the first of its kind to address the unique challenges that rural communities are facing with regards to the opioid crisis," says NCHRC executive director Robert Childs. "We are excited and honored to be part of this important, life-saving work."

Leaders at the Aetna Foundation believe that funding opioid safety programs like the one through NCHRC is critical to address the multiple challenges of promoting opioid safety.

“While this is a national health crisis, there is no single solution that can be applied across the country,” said Harold L. Paz, MD, MS, member of the Aetna Foundation Board of Directors. “These grants will provide important resources to empower local communities to address the unique characteristics of the opioid-related problems they are facing.”

Independence Blue Cross to remove naloxone and Narcan cost sharing

Independence Blue Cross announced plans to end naloxone and Narcan cost sharing this year. The change in co-pays applies for individual customers immediately, fully insured customers on March 1st, 2018, and self-funded businesses on April 1st.

The update comes after local data showed that 1700 people in southeastern Pennsylvania died from overdoses in 2016.

"By removing a financial barrier to accessing naloxone, we can make the drug more readily available and hopefully save more lives," said Dr. Richard Snyder, chief medical officer for Independence Blue Cross. "Our hope is that anyone struggling with opioid addiction can get appropriate treatment, but they have to be alive to take that step."

Independence Blue Cross recently added limits to new opioid prescriptions by restricting low-dose prescriptions to a five-day quantity. The limits are part of the payer’s overall strategy to improve opioid safety.

“This safeguard prevents multiple opioid prescriptions from being filled at different pharmacies and reduces the risk for addiction while addressing legitimate pain treatment. It also reduces the risk of unused medication being diverted into the hands of unintended users.”

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