The health insurers you work with are trying to help tackle the opioid crisis. One way they’re doing that is by assessing what consumers think about opioids, and about pain relief in general.
According to government data, 68,557 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2018, and 47,590 of those deaths involved an opioid. Although, for the first time in decades, the number of deaths was slightly lower than it was the year before, the most recent overdose death total represents a shocking tenfold increase over the number of overdose deaths in 1980.
As tragic and sobering as the number of opioid-related deaths is, that figure only hints at the scale of the problem. The number of deaths does not include the lives of families and individuals irrevocably altered by the turmoil and trauma of addiction.
Carriers have publicly committed to working on the problem. Cigna, Aetna, UnitedHealth and the Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are some of the carriers that have taken concrete steps to address the situation.
But the solutions aren’t always obvious, or easy. Insurance companies face a dilemma navigating a space where there may be obvious trade-offs between cost or efficiency and health risks. Opioids are generally inexpensive to cover and easy to provide, while alternative pain treatments may be costlier at the outset (even if they result in long-term savings), and research on the efficacy of non-opioid pain treatments is lacking.