By Andrew Kitchenman, Courtesy of NJ Spotlight
When doctors prescribe powerful painkillers to patients, insurers sometimes require them to try other, less-expensive drugs first – an approach that doctors and patient advocates say can lead to needless suffering. But a proposal to prevent this from happening is raising another concern: that easing access to painkillers will worsen a growing crisis with patients becoming addicted to opioids and other powerful drugs.
The final days of the state legislative session have witnessed an intense lobbying battle over a bill, S-2088, that would require health plans for public employees, individuals and small- to medium-sized employers to pay for pain medications prescribed for doctors, without requiring patients to first try the less-powerful and less-expensive medications.
Insurers have said it’s a bad time for the Legislature to pass the bill, considering the heightened focus on misuse and abuse of prescription pain pills. The issue has been at the forefront of health policy discussions since a July report by the State Commission of Investigation, which found that some doctors were bilking Medicaid by wrongfully handing out prescription painkillers.
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