Despite the struggle the country is facing with the use of prescription opioids to reduce pain, patients have few choices.
Over the last ten years, the prescription of opioids has skyrocketed but alternative painkiller insurance policies are few and far between. Consumers struggle to find insurance coverage for options outside highly addictive medications with serious risks.
Fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine prescriptions are climbing – as are opioid overdoses.
This trend isn’t new – it has been around for about ten years – but it is far worse now than it ever has been. The rise in prescriptions was driven by a so-called “big push.” That event began in the early 1990s. Medical groups pressured doctors to implement more aggressive pain treatment strategies, said Washington University psychiatry professor, Dr. Ted Cicero, an opiate use researcher.
Despite the fact that pain specialists now advocate using means aside from opiates, alternative painkiller insurance is on the decline. While opioid prescriptions were a main focus in pain treatments for a while, doctors are now looking elsewhere. For many years, alternative medicine and treatments have been preferred for alleviating chronic pain.
Unfortunately, Health insurers are cutting back on the alternative painkiller insurance offerings.
The new trend among health insurance companies is to cut back on the reimbursements offered for alternative medicine treatments. Moreover, a growing number of insurers aren’t covering alternative and natural pain treatments at all.
Pain specialists have been looking to options outside the use of opioids. These greatly include steroid injections, fluid injections, joint injections, nerve blocks, infrared light therapy, physical therapy, and radio frequency ablation, among others. These therapies and techniques are often called interventional pain treatments.
According to the Secretary of the Massachusetts Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, Dr. Janet Pearl, “Every year, pain interventions go to the chopping block, and doctors have to figure out how to provide that treatment and make ends meet.” The lack of alternative painkiller insurance coverage is creating a difficult choice for both doctors and patients, said Dr. Pearl.
Similarly, UC Irvine Health director of pediatric pain management, Dr. Shalini Shah explained that insurance company policies are forcing doctors to have to choose between better health care they can’t afford or opioids that are covered.