Health insurer Cigna announced on Thursday an ambitious goal of slashing its customers’ use of potentially addictive opioid pain medications by 25% over the next three years.
Of course, they cannot control what medicines are prescribed, so they are really saying they will cut coverage for opioids by 25% in 3 years, with no regard as to whether they are using these medications out of sheer necessity.
Such percentages are only valid for populations, not individuals.
The 25% reduction target would bring Cigna plan holders’ use of the drugs back to the “pre-crisis” levels of 2006, according to the company.
Yet, the problem of nonmedical opioids have already decreased:
From ‘Opioid Epidemic’ Myths: “According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nonmedical use of opioid analgesics such as oxycodone and hydrocodone peaked in 2012 and has since dropped below the rate in 2002.”
“We had a program for several years that looked for patterns of abuse and fraud in narcotic prescriptions.
And we’re expanding that with the new CDC guidelines to include not just fraud or clear abuse, but looking at patients who have prescribing patterns that put them at risk for addiction.”
They don’t describe what these patterns might be, so I believe this is simply a euphemistic term for any high doses, though they won’t say that directly.
But any effort to cut opioid use must also grapple with the reality that many patients are in real chronic pain and need strong medication to get through the day.
In response, Cigna plans to promote more holistic and alternative pain management therapies.
Since many pain patients have already tried many of these “holistic and alternative” methods, this will be of little help.
The continuous promotion of such unproven and previously ridiculed methods seems irresponsible and dangerous.
“We don’t want to just take narcotics away from people who need them,” Nemecek emphasized.
Yet, this seems to be happening more frequently.
When taking away opioids from patients, there is zero “cost” associated with a patient’s increased pain, while there is a huge overinflated and media-hyped “cost” of potential overdose.
“What we are going to do with physicians is really expand the availability and access to more comprehensive chronic pain treatment programs….
Treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, which is usually used for depression, is also very effective for chronic pain. Using alternative treatments like massage, chiropractic services where appropriate—we’re going to be working with physicians to give them more alternatives to medications.”
Here, they imply that they will be covering all these dubious “alternative” treatments, but this is not what they are saying.
Cigna just says they are “working with physicians to give THEM more alternatives to medications”, but they are saying nothing about providing coverage for patients.
The insurer recently teamed up with the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) to share customer claims data in an effort to glean the most effective methods of tackling addiction treatment.
The move is in response to the widespread opioid and heroin overdose epidemic in the U.S.
I still assert this crisis has been manufactured by the recovery industry because 20 times more people are dying from medical errors they have no control over than of overdoses resulting from bad choices.