- Private, employer-provided health insurance covers about four in 10 people addicted to opioids, a new report by Health System Tracker shows.
- According to the report, employees in provided plans are prescribed fewer opioids now than 10 years ago. The report also shows that opioid use among people covered by large employers decreased across disease categories and health conditions, including cancer, musculoskeletal diseases, injuries and pregnancy complications.
- However, the report also found that the cost of treatment of opioid addiction rose from $0.3 billion 12 years ago to $2.6 billion in 2016 — a nine-fold increase.
While it may be good news for employers that their programs to lessen dependency on opioid prescriptions may be working, costs still remain a concern. Various groups have stepped in to find solutions or create toolkits to help employers tackle the issue, including some state governments.
In general, employers have numerous incentives to reexamine opioid usage within their health plans. Studies have concluded that employees on long-term opioid prescriptions stay out longer on disability, and that drug addiction is responsible for driving 20% of men out of the workforce overall. Some companies have even struggled to find workers due to the addiction epidemic, creating a whole different cost issue for employers.
Employers may act to educate against opioid addiction and get addicts into treatment through either employee assistance programs (EAPs) or disease management programs, Miller Nash Graham & Dunham attorney Eric Schillinger writes for HR Daily Advisor. Schillinger notes however the list of compliance measures needed to implement these programs, which includes the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
Companies must also be aware of the legal obligations that cover addicts. The Americans with Disabilities Act doesn't protect workers who are currently addicted to illegal substances, but it can provide protections for workers in recovery. Shifting state laws, especially those around marijuana use and protections, are another complication employers must consider when creating effective, compliant drug policies.