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Lawmakers considering bill to make substance abuse medication more accessible

Delaware Public Media

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it easier for privately insured people with opioid addictions to get medicines for treatment.

State Rep. David Bentz’s (D-Bear) bill would require health insurance carriers to provide coverage for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for substance abuse disorder. That would make medicines like buprenorphine and methadone more accessible.

Under the law, insurers would not be allowed to charge more for prescription medications treating substance abuse than they do for other illnesses, nor would insurers be allowed to require step therapy—in which patients must sample multiple prescriptions before receiving coverage.

The measure has support from Delaware’s Medical Society (MSD). Former MSD President Dr. Richard Henderson says MAT is often the most effective treatment for substance abuse.

“It has been documented that the earlier that this treatment begins the more likely it is to be successful and remission will not occur,” said Henderson. “So if this bill helps to remove some of those barriers that make it difficult to get folks into treatment, then that’s a good thing.”

The bill is in line with recommendations made by the Pew Charitable Trusts earlier this year on how Delaware can better combat its opioid crisis. Pew found only one-fifth of commercially insured Delawareans diagnosed with opioid-related problems received any treatment in 2016.

Henderson calls Bentz’s bill a good first step.

“There’s certainly a whole lot more than can be done, but this is an important first step because if folks can’t get into treatment, don’t have access to treatment, then the other things that need to be done become more difficult,” said Henderson.

American Medical Association data shows opioid deaths continue to rise nationally despite a downward trend of opioid prescription.

The overdose death rate in Delaware has gone up for six straight years. 400 people died from drug overdoses in Delaware in 2018. The latest data shows the First State tied for the fifth highest overdose rate in the nation.

Bentz’s bill passed the House Wednesday by a 38-2 margin.

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