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Rutledge Fighting Opioid Incentives


September 18, 2017

Calls on insurance companies to give proper consideration to incentivizing non-opioid treatments

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge co-led a bipartisan coalition of 37 states and territories urging health insurance companies to examine financial incentives that contribute to the opioid epidemic in Arkansas and across the country. Rutledge is encouraging a two-step strategy with insurance companies intended to identify problematic policies and encourage reforms to spur increased use of non-opioid alternatives for treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain.

Describing the opioid epidemic as “the preeminent public health crisis of our time,” the 37 attorneys general sent a letter to industry trade groups and major insurance providers nationwide. It urges insurers to review their coverage and payment policies as the starting point in a coalition-initiated dialogue focused on incentive structures across the insurance industry.

“The only way to defeat the opioid crisis is with an all-of-the-above approach, and that includes working with the insurance industry and examining their incentive structures,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I am hopeful that insurance companies, like so many stakeholders, will recognize the gravity of the epidemic and give proper consideration to incentivizing non-opioid treatments.”

The attorneys general, in acknowledging the important role insurance companies play in reducing opioid prescriptions, hope to assess the positive and negative impacts incentive structures have on the opioid epidemic. Rutledge and her colleagues contend the incentives that promote use of non-opioid therapies will increase the practicality of medical providers considering such treatments.

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, despite the amount of pain reported by Americans remaining steady. Drug overdose deaths are on the rise in Arkansas, increasing from 287 in 2015 to 335 in 2016, according to data from the State Crime Lab.

Rutledge co-sponsored the letter, which was led by the West Virginia Attorney General, along with attorneys general from Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Utah and Virginia.

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

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