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Bill to lift barriers to medicated-assisted treatment for opioid abuse

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In the final days of the legislative session, health organizations are making a last-ditch effort to pass a bill that would make it easier for patients with opioid use disorder to receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT) such as methadone or buprenorphine.

Right now, many health insurers require prior authorization to access those drugs. House Bill 220 would lift that requirement for some forms of MAT and ensure availability to the lowest cost-sharing tier of patients.

The Medical Society of Delaware, Psychiatric Society of Delaware, American Psychiatric Association, and American Medical Association have urged lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill before June 30th.

“Delaware’s physicians support HB 220 because it will save lives,” said MSD President Andrew W. Dahlke, MD. “This is a bill that will remove delays to evidence-based treatment-an essential policy step to reversing our state’s opioid epidemic.”

One argument for MAT is that the opioid crisis has continued, despite the decrease in use of prescription pain medication. This is seen as a more aggressive next step.

“Prior authorization can be time-consuming for the doctor’s office and delays the patient from getting treatment,” said Richard W. Henderson, chair of the MSD government affairs committee.”Any effort that can be made to lower the barrier to getting treatment, that’s a good thing.”

Some health care insurers have already removed prior authorization for MAT, including Anthem, Cigna and Empire Blue Cross.

“If they are the only three so far, there must be some reservation about adopting it,” Henderson said.

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