Legislators have “indefinitely” tabled a bill that would have forced insurance companies to cover the medication used as treatment for an opioid addiction.
Backers of the bill said it would speed up access to methadone and similar drugs for patients trying to break an addiction to painkillers. Dennis Tibben of the Iowa Medical Society says patients are often in limbo.
“The patient will come in, they’re ready to seek treatment, but then they’re up to 30 days getting approval from the insurance company to offer these treatment options,” Tibben says. “At that point the patient has disappeared, the patient has relapsed.”
Insurance companies opposed the bill, as did some business groups. Legislators say they’d like to study the issue and focus on ways to address access to opioids. Mike Triplett is a lobbyist for “Express Scripts” — an online pharmacy. He says other states are trying to get doctors to write smaller prescriptions for addictive painkillers.
“What other states are doing is they’re saying on an initial opioid ‘script a doctor may prescribe for 10 days, seven days, 14 days,” Triplett says. “That gets at a minimum half the drugs off the market.”
The Iowa Department of Public Health says opioid abuse is a “becoming a problem of epic proportions in Iowa.” The number of people seeking treatment for a heroin or other opioid addiction quadrupled between 2005 and 2014.
(Reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)