October 21, 2016 / 3:00 PM / 3 years ago

Cigna ends preauthorization requirement to treat opioid addiction

Oct 21 (Reuters) - Health insurer Cigna Corp has discontinued its policy of requiring doctors to seek authorization before treating opioid addicts, as part of a fight against an epidemic of opioid abuse, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Friday.

The policy change will apply nationally, said Schneiderman, who has been pushing for easier access to treatments for the estimated 2.2 million Americans who need treatment for abuse of heroin or prescription painkillers.

Preauthorization requirements can lead to significant delays in treatment, and other health insurers are encouraged to follow Cigna’s lead, Schneiderman said in a statement.

Lawmakers around the country are seeking ways to stem the epidemic, which kills 78 Americans every day.

Fewer than half of addicts are receiving help, according to the U.S. Centers for Human and Health Services.

Cigna previously required doctors to submit a prior-approval form for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) requests, answering questions about the patient’s current treatment and medical history.

This was done to minimize the risk of illicit redistribution of drugs, but opponents argue that this approach has left the healthcare system unable to cope with the rising number of addicts. (Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Ted Kerr)

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