Gary B. Rollman,
Emeritus Professor of Psychology,
University of Western Ontario
(In addition to links below, see weekly archives in the right column)
Monday, June 04, 2018
How health insurers are making America’s opioid epidemic worse - Vox
Mandy has now been in recovery from her opioid addiction for more than two months — and she's ready to keep that going. But the 29-year-old in the Chicago area is now dealing with a big obstacle: her health insurer.
Mandy, who asked I use only her first name, said she struggled with addiction for six years. It started with back pain, which a doctor tried to treat with Vicodin.
"I had tried [opioids] in high school," she said. "I had an older boyfriend, and I tried some of his wisdom teeth painkillers to get high off of. And I was like, 'Whoa, this is awesome.' When I got a Vicodin prescription for my back, I was like, 'Oh, I remember these being really great.'"
Mandy took the drugs as prescribed at first. But every once in a while, she would sneak in an extra pill or two to help deal with a bad day. Then she started taking extras on good days, and, finally, at work.
"It got to the point where I started using them recreationally," Mandy said. "But then I started using them to not get sick" — a typical experience for people addicted to opioids, who over time begin to use the drugs not to get high but to avert cravings and withdrawal.
In March, Mandy decided she had enough. She got into an intensive outpatient addiction treatment program for eight weeks and was prescribed buprenorphine, a medication for opioid addiction that staves off withdrawal and cravings without producing the kind of high that, say, heroin or painkillers might. She's remained on the medication as she's transitioned to less intensive treatment.
There's just one problem: Her insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, won't pay for the buprenorphine. That's left Mandy to foot the bill. Her latest bill — for a 28-day supply — was priced at $294 out of pocket, although she got it down to $222.69 with a discount. With the discount, similar bills throughout a full year would add up to nearly $2,900.