Learn more about America's opioid epidemic

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association reports on opioid addiction in America's Opioid Epidemic and Its Effect on the Nation's Commercially-Insured Population.

Substance Abuse: A Strategy to Prevent and Treat Addiction

Drug and alcohol abuse is a global issue that has severely impacted our country over the past few years. Across our nation, nearly two million Americans are struggling with addiction. In Philadelphia, the situation gets worse each day. Since 2009, the city has seen a 43 percent increase in drug overdose deaths, and opioids accounted for approximately 80 percent of drug-related deaths in 2016.¹

Addiction Prevention and Treatment Measures

Due to the regional impact of opioid addiction on our community, Independence Blue Cross has made opioid abuse prevention and treatment a priority. We have taken a holistic approach to tackling the issue by examining the causes and implementing viable and sustainable solutions.

Supporting providers

We work closely with our network providers to give them the tools, information, and resources they need to care for their patients who are prescribed opioids including:

  • A comprehensive portfolio of online opioid awareness tools and resources
  • Ongoing communications and education regarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for prescribing opioids

For their patients struggling with addiction, Independence health plans include coverage for:

  • In-network mental health providers, specialists, and therapists who deal with substance abuse issues
  • In-network substance abuse rehabilitation facilities to help members receive in-patient medication-assisted treatment and therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatments such as Methadone, Vivitrol®, and buprenorphine-containing medications like Suboxone®

Working with pharmacists

Opioid addiction often starts from the abuse of a prescription medication. To combat the potential abuse and misuse of opioid medications, Independence has policies in place to manage and monitor members' prescription usage, including:

  • Five-day supply limits, which are a cumulative-day supply limit of five days per 30 days for low-dose opioids — members requiring more than a five-day supply would require prior authorization
  • Prior authorizations for all high-dose opioids, long-term use, and opioid-containing patches
  • Pharmacy system alerts when a member fills a benzodiazepine and opioid medication within 30 days of each other
  • Pharmacy system alerts when a member attempts to fill more than a 30-day supply of a long-acting opioid within 30 days — pharmacists receive a similar message for short-acting opioid medications

Protecting our members and community

Addiction affects the health and welfare of all members of our community. To address this complex problem, Independence is committed to the following education, outreach, and prevention initiatives:

On the front lines with the Independence Blue Cross Foundation

The Independence Blue Cross Foundation recently launched the Supporting Treatment and Overdose Prevention (STOP) initiative to quickly assemble critical regional community health providers and resources to increase access to effective treatment and prevention for those struggling with drug abuse.

STOP aims to address the opioid epidemic through the following activities:

  • Promoting the utilization of prescription drug take-back sites in Southeastern Pennsylvania to directly decrease access to prescription opioids across the five-county region
  • Supporting research in evidence-based and emerging approaches in care coordination and treatment
  • Increasing services and access to training for Medication-Assisted Treatments
  • Awarding grant funding to effective community-based treatment and prevention programs in Southeastern Pennsylvania
¹ Reducing Teen Substance Misuse — What really works, healthyamericans.org