How Independence and the Blues are responding to the growing opioid crisis

Coverage for methadone and no prior authorizations for Vivitrol and Suboxone, two of the most common medication-assisted treatments.

No member cost-sharing for injectable and nasal spray formulations of naloxone and Narcan.

A robust network of nearly 100 substance abuse rehabilitation facilities and more than 5,000 behavioral health providers.

Addressing a Painful Epidemic

The current opioid epidemic in the United States is the worst drug crisis in our nation's history. Each day, thousands of people begin to misuse opioids and many of them will join the millions of Americans already suffering from addiction.

Independence is committed to turning the tide on opioid addiction and overdose. We are keenly focused on the prevention and treatment of this crisis. We have become a nationally recognized leader in this fight by examining the causes and implementing viable and sustainable solutions, including:

  • Restricting most initial low-dose opioid prescriptions to no more than five days
  • Removing member cost-sharing for injectable and nasal spray formulations of naloxone and Narcan® (a brand of naloxone)
  • Not limiting visits to detox facilities and offering members access to a full range of in-patient and out-patient treatment, including residential facilities
  • Lifting prior authorization requirements for Vivitrol® and Suboxone® and covering methadone
  • Being actively involved in public policy discourse and advocating for immediate legislative changes to improve care coordination and patient treatment

In addition, we give our network providers the tools, information, and resources they need to care for their patients who are prescribed opioids, and we work with pharmacists to manage and monitor members' prescription usage.

We are glad to report that these efforts are making measurable progress. Since 2015 the number of members using opioids and prescriptions for opioids has dropped more than a third. Read our white paper.

Getting Results

Between Q1 2014 and Q4 2017, Independence has seen a major reduction in members using opioids, opioid prescription claims processed, and opioid dosages prescribed.

35 45 18

Resources for Members

To help decrease the number of members using opioids and to help those struggling with addiction, we have compiled a list of opioid and substance abuse resources with links to drug take-back sites, contact information for prevention and addiction assistance, and useful information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Moreover, Independence health plans include coverage for:

  • Medication-assisted treatments such as methadone, Vivitrol®, and Suboxone®
  • In-network mental health providers, specialists, and therapists who deal with substance abuse issues from a network of more than 5,000 behavioral health providers
  • In-network substance abuse rehabilitation facilities to help members receive in-patient medication-assisted treatment and therapy from a network of more than 100 substance abuse rehab facilities

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How Independence and the Blues are responding to the growing opioid crisis

Improved prescribing habits

January 1, 2015

Prior authorization required on all high-dose opioids.

October 1, 2016

Added prior authorization to >90 MED.

July, 1 2017

Cumulative 5-day supply limit.

Prior authorization on all pain patches.

Removed prior authorization on all buprenorphine products.

Safety edit messaging for benzodiazepine/opioid utilization.

On the front lines with the Independence Blue Cross Foundation

Through its Support Treatment and Overdose Prevention (STOP) initiative, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation works to increase awareness and access to effective community-based opioid treatment and prevention.

Learn more about the STOP initiative