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Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Court Settlement Removes Barrier to Opioid Addiction Medication

October 27, 2016 | Addictions | Comments
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The health insurer, Cigna, will no longer require doctors to request prior authorization for prescribing buprenorphine to patients with opioid use disorder. The decision will apply to all Cigna customers and is expected to help patients access medication-assisted treatment (MAT) more quickly. Cigna made the policy change under the terms of a court settlement with the state of New York last week.

Prior authorization requires providers to submit a prior-approval form and answer questions about a patient’s current treatment and medical history. This process can sometimes cause significant delays for a patient trying to access treatment. Specifically, Cigna’s decision creates easier access to buprenorphine, one of three medications used in medication-assisted treatment. Medication-assisted treatment is a proven, effective approach to treating addiction that combines behavioral therapy and recovery support with medication. For people with opioid and heroin addiction, a delay in accessing medication-assisted treatment can be particularly dangerous, easily leading to relapse and overdose.

Cigna’s policy change follows other recent federal and state efforts to address the opioid addiction crisis through increasing access to MAT. In a press release, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, urged other insurers to follow Cigna’s example and remove barriers to treatments for opioid dependency.