Health insurer to help fight opioid crisis

Health insurer to help fight opioid crisis

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -The Chief Medical Officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee spoke with members of the East Memphis Rotary Club on what the company is doing to curb the opioid epidemic Wednesday.

“This is really a public health crisis which means everybody has a role to play in this,” said Doctor Andrea Willis.

She said many people think because they have been prescribed opioids, that it’s okay and that they can’t get addicted.

Tennessee Department of Health reported nearly 1,200 people died statewide in 2016 from an opioid-related overdose.

In June, Governor Bill Haslam signed two new Tennessee laws which he referred to as a major step in helping fight the epidemic.

The TN Together legislation is a 30 million dollar plan that limits the supply of opioids, but also provides treatment for those who are already addicted.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee also announced its plans to limit the quantity for short-acting opioid prescriptions and removing Oxycontin from the list of covered drugs.

“We are replacing Oxycontin on our formular with some other things that are more tamper resistant, so it’s still Oxycodone but it makes it harder to abuse the medication,” said Willis.

The replacement pills are harder to crush and the “high” is delayed, according to Willis.

Currently, Tennessee is ranked third highest in the country for the number of opioid prescriptions written, down one spot from 2017.

"We've made a little bit of progress but we definitely have a long way to go," said Willis.

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