Pill-mill bill causing problems for patients who have long-term prescriptions: expensive drug-screening tests

In July, Kentucky started making long-time holders of certain controlled-substances prescriptions submit to urine tests to determine if they were actually taking the drugs, rather than selling them. Because insurance companies don’t consider the tests medically necessary, patients often have to pay for them out of pocket. It can be expensive, reports John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader, citing one couple that had to pay $533.

The tests are required under emergency regulations issued to implement House Bill 1, the “pill mill bill,” and Gov. Steve Beshear has said he understands the financial burden the tests can bring on those who are not abusing prescriptions. Changes could happen in January when the emergency regulations expire and are replaced with permanent rules, Cheves reports. The Kentucky Medical Licensure Board is hearing complaints, and has extended a grace period for compliance for doctors until Nov. 1.

“But critics say they warned last spring that HB 1 — intended to crack down on the illicit sale of prescription drugs — would treat everyone like a potential felon, including doctors and patients engaged in legitimate medical care,” Cheves reports. Much debate about the bill has revolved around its implication on doctors, with little attention paid to patients. Cheves reports that soon may change.

Under the law, doctors are required to get an initial urine test from patients who have long-term controlled substance prescriptions. They must also get random drug tests once a year for “low-risk” patients who are most unlikely to abuse drugs based on test results, and three times a year for “high risk” patients. The amount of people requiring drug tests is “likely to be in the tens of thousands,” Cheves reports. (Read more)

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