NPR, February 15, 2017
Shefali Luthra

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Aetna, one of the nation's largest insurance companies, says that starting in March it will remove what's been a key barrier for patients seeking medication to treat their opioid addiction. The change will apply to all its private insurance plans, an Aetna spokeswoman confirmed. Aetna is the third major health insurer to announce such a switch in recent months.

Specifically, the company will stop requiring doctors to seek approval from the insurance company before they prescribe particular medications ― such as Suboxone ― that are used to ease withdrawal symptoms. The common insurance practice, called "prior authorization," has frustrated doctors because it sometimes results in delays of hours to days before a patient can get the needed treatment.

That delay may sound like just a technicality ― a brief pause before treatment. But addiction specialists say this red tape has put people's ability to get well at risk. It gives them a window of time when they may change their minds or relapse if they start experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. [...]

addiction insurance pharmaceuticals public health regulation