Opinion: Insurance Should Cover Evidence-Based Opioid Use Treatment
Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
By Lee Dilworth
Just a few weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a shocking milestone. For the first time, the United States surpassed 100,000 deaths from overdoses in a 12-month period, with nearly 3,600 deaths in Tennessee alone.
As we turn toward the end-of-the-year flurry of activities and holiday season, this news is a strong reminder that our communities are hurting, and it's more important than ever to reach out, lend a hand and look for ways to encourage others to begin their path to recovery. In fact, as open enrollment season continues through Jan. 15, it's important for all of us to choose a health insurance plan that covers evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder.
From late November through New Year's Day, we face the seasonal urge to gather, make merry and reflect on the year that has passed. Yet for some of us, the holidays can be a time of increased stress, increased dependency on substances like alcohol, and even isolation. Further, we're marking the second holiday season amid the ongoing threat of COVID-19, demonstrating the need to commit to healthy practices now rather than wait for a New Year's resolution to begin.
These healthy practices could include making sure you and your loved ones, including children as young as 5 years old, are vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect the older and more vulnerable members of your family. They also include avoiding excess substance use by being aware of what factors in your life might cause stress or anxiety and finding ways to manage that stress in a healthy way.
If there's someone in your life who may struggle with opioid use disorder, now might be the time to offer acceptance and help them find evidence-based treatment like medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, which combines medication with counseling.
In fact, evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder in Tennessee has never been more accessible. TennCare, our state Medicaid program, has led the industry in not only certifying treatment providers that offer medication-assisted treatment, but also in prioritizing the reduction of health disparities among rural communities in East Tennessee.
We're proud to not only be certified to accept TennCare patients but to also have partnerships with some of the top commercial health insurance providers in the state, including Humana, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, and UnitedHealthcare.
The adoption of evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder by the health insurance industry is something we want to shout about from the rooftops. Just a few years ago, evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder was a cash-only business, meaning 9 out of 10 people in need of treatment simply couldn't afford it. The health industry has fully embraced MAT and seen how we can help people reclaim their lives from opioid use disorder, breaking down barriers to access and affordability.
As we take the next few weeks to spend time with our loved ones, let's look toward the new year with a renewed effort to support the mental health and well-being of ourselves, our families and our communities. This open enrollment season, make sure you pick a health insurance plan that prioritizes mental health and treatment for opioid use disorder so we can reclaim lives and begin to heal our communities.
Lee Dilworth is the founder and CEO of ReVIDA Recovery Centers.