Trump declares opioid abuse a public health emergency, but employers are already in the fight
- The Trump administration has declared the nationwide opioid epidemic as a "public health emergency," according to media reports. President Donald Trump said he would use government funds to go after companies that fueled the addiction, including filing lawsuits against them.
- Although the president's declaration doesn't create more funds for the crisis, it allows him to appoint specialists under federal grants on a temporary basis. Benefits Pro says Trump wants to include money for the epidemic in an end-of-year budget agreement. The declaration is issued under the Public Health Service Act.
- Many employers have already stepped up to the plate, however, according to statements from the National Business Group on Health (NBGH). “The opioid crisis is a growing concern among large employers, and with good reason," NGBH President and CEO Brian Marcotte said in a statement. "The misuse and abuse of opioids could negatively impact employee productivity, workplace costs, the availability of labor, absenteeism and disability costs, workers compensation claims, as well as overall medical expenses.”
The NBGH's latest survey found that 80% of respondents are concerned about the widespread opioid addiction and are teaming up with health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to fight the epidemic. The Large Employers’ 2018 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey shows that employers are already out in front of the national move to arrest the epidemic, well ahead of the Trump administration's declaration.
Employers have good reason to get out in front of the opioid epidemic. Beyond the terrible human cost within communities and groups of employees, addiction can likely be blamed for employers' inability to hire enough job candidates. Federal Reserve Board chair Janet Yellen stated as much in a congressional hearing in August. The epidemic also is being blamed for 20% of men dropping out of the workforce.
The survey also found that 32% of large employers have restrictions on prescription opioids, and 21% have programs to manage the use of prescription opioids. These are preventive steps employers are using to stem the overuse of pain-killing drugs.
NBGH executives recommend employers address the opioid epidemic by limiting the number of pills on initial opioid prescriptions; limiting opioid coverage to in-network pharmacies or providers; expanding treatment alternatives for pain management, including physical therapy; and providing in-house training to raise awareness of opioid addiction and the recognition of symptoms.