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Why Health Plans Should Go to the "MAT" in the Fight Against Opioid Addiction

Julia Elitzer and Margaret Tatar, Health Management Associates

The opioid epidemic demands urgent attention. Health plans can play a role in preventing overdose deaths by improving access to medication-assisted treatment.

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In collaboration with government, philanthropy, providers and the public, health plans have emerged as a key partner in the fight against the national opioid epidemic. Building on CHCF's publication Changing Course: The Role of Health Plans in Curbing the Opioid Epidemic, this paper combines health plan interviews with research to make the case for urgent health plan action to increase access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

MAT has been proven to save lives, improve quality of life, and lower medical costs, but remains inaccessible to almost 90% of the people it could help. This paper outlines concrete strategies that public and private plans can implement in their efforts to ensure that their members have access to MAT when and where they need it.

Key insights include:

  • MAT has been proven to improve outcomes and reduce costs for patients with opioid use disorder, but few have access to it.
  • Providers face significant administrative barriers to offering MAT to their patients.
  • Health plans are ideally positioned to expand access to MAT throughout the health care system.
  • Several health plans are taking action—by amending authorization requirements, giving prescribers easier access to buprenorphine and naloxone, and more—to incentivize the use of MAT in their systems.

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