Insurance should cover evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder

Just a few weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a shocking milestone. For the first time, the United States exceeded 100,000 overdose deaths in 12 months, with nearly 3,600 deaths in Tennessee alone. As we move towards the end of the year and the holiday season, this news is a powerful reminder that our communities are suffering and it is more important than ever to speak up, help out, and find ways to encourage others to begin their journey of recovery. In fact, it’s important for all of us to choose a health insurance plan that covers evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorders during the open enrollment season by January 15.

From late November through New Years, we face the seasonal urge to gather together, be merry, and reflect on the year that has passed. For some of us, however, the holidays can be a time of heightened stress, heightened addiction to substances like alcohol, and even isolation. Additionally, as we celebrate Christmas Day amid the ongoing threat of COVID-19, we demonstrate the need to commit to healthy practices now instead of waiting for a New Year’s resolution to begin.

These healthy practices could include making sure you and loved ones, including children 5 and older, are vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect the elderly and more vulnerable members of your family. It also includes avoiding excessive substance use by being aware of what factors in your life might be causing stress or anxiety and finding ways to manage that stress in healthy ways. If there is someone in your life who may be struggling with an opioid use disorder, now may be the time to offer acceptance and help them find evidence-based treatment like drug treatment or MAT that combines medication with counseling.

In fact, evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder has never been more accessible in Tennessee. TennCare, our government Medicaid program, is an industry leader not only in certifying treatment providers that offer drug-assisted treatments, but also in prioritizing reducing health inequalities among rural communities in eastern Tennessee. We pride ourselves on not only being certified to admit TennCare patients, but also to have partnerships with some of the state’s leading commercial health insurance providers, including Humana, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, and UnitedHealthcare.

The introduction of evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder by the health insurance industry is something we want to shout from the rooftops. Just a few years ago, evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder was a pure cash transaction, meaning 9 out of 10 people in need of treatment simply couldn’t afford it. The healthcare industry has fully embraced MAT and seen how we can help people reclaim their lives from opioid use disorder by breaking down barriers to entry and affordability.

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As we take the next few weeks to spend time with loved ones, we look to the New Year with renewed efforts to support the mental health and well-being of ourselves, our families, and our communities. In this open enrollment season, make sure you choose a health insurance plan that prioritizes mental health and opioid use disorder treatment so we can regain lives and start healing our communities.

Lee Dilworth is the founder and CEO of ReVIDA Recovery Centers.

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Lee Dilworth

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