Oregon Medicaid will fund alternative treatments for pain in effort to cut opioid abuse; Ky. only pays for a few alternatives

Oregon’s version of Medicaid is getting ready to pay for some alternative treatments to pain pills in hopes of reducing the number of people who become addicted to opioids or abuse them, Kristian Foden-Vencil reports for NPR.

The coordinator of the Oregon Pain Management Commission, Denise Taray, told NPR that Oregon wants more patients to try alternative approaches to treat pain,. “The only thing that might have been covered in the past was narcotics,” Taray sayid. “But treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, physical therapy and rehab would never have been covered.”

Payment for many of these alternative treatments will begin January 2016 for those who participate in the Oregon Health Plan.

The decision was driven by the over-prescription of opioids, which is a nationwide problem.

“Oregon leads the nation in the non-medical use of opioids,and about a third of the hospitalizations related to drug abuse in Oregon are because of opioids,” NPR reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says“health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.”

NPR reports, “While the treatments may cost more than a course of pain pills, the hope is to save money by reducing the number of people who become addicted to opioids or abuse them.”

Kentucky also struggles with the over-prescription of opioids, but only covers a few of these alternative pain treatment services.

According to the Department for Medicaid Services, “Medicaid covers medically necessary services,” Beth Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in an email. “Medicaid does cover some services mentioned in the article, such as chiropractic care and physical therapy. However, acupuncture is not a covered service. As with all treatment plans, the decision regarding specific treatment is made between the physician and individual.”

In 2012, Kentucky was listed as one of the top five prescribers of painkillers in the nation, at 128 painkiller prescriptions per 100 people, according to the IMS, National Prescription Audit.

David Eisen, executive director of the Quest Center in Oregon and board-certified in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, told NPR that doctors need to stop thinking of opioids as a first-line defense against pain.

“There should be an array of things for people to choose from,” Eisen said, “whether it be chiropractic care, or naturopathic care, or acupuncture, nutrition, massage. Try those things — and if they don’t work, you use opioids as a last resort.”

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