Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called upon health insurers to assist law enforcement in ending the opioid epidemic.
“Prevention is the most effective solution to this crisis,” he said. “Heath insurers can help prevent excessive medical abuse of opioid drugs and also detect fraud and other potential illegal conduct and report it.”
Mr. Rosenstein made the comments Wednesday morning at the American Health Insurance Plans’ 2018 Policy Conference in Washington. The trade organization represents more than 1,300 insurers that provide healthcare for more than 200 million Americans.
The opioid crisis has contributed to the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. History. Roughly 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, exceeding the number of casualties during the Vietnam War, Mr. Rosenstein said.
Of those deaths, 42,000 or more than two-thirds, were linked to opioids. On average, 115 people die from a drug overdose each day, he said.
Mr. Rosenstein said health insurers should monitor prescription data to prevent individuals from taking their first step towards addiction. The prescription rate for opioids has nearly doubled from 1994 to 2007. That has lead to nearly 6,000 Americans abusing prescription drugs for the first time each day, Mr. Rosenstein said citing Justice Department statistics.
Insurers can fight this battle on the front end because their data can show outliers such as an unusual quantity of prescriptions for a certain drug or a doctor prescribing a high number of opioids. Mr. Rosenstein encouraged insurers to share this data with law enforcement.
“We know that overprescription of opioids is the source of this challenge,” he said. “By taking it on yourselves, you are in position to save money. We recognize the financial incentive for you to do so.”
The cost of opioid overdoses have reached $1 trillion annually, according to Mr. Rosenstein. A quarter of those costs include additional healthcare and addiction treatments, which are largely covered by insurers, he said.
Last year, President Donald Trump declared the opioid problem a public health emergency. He ordered the Justice Department to launch initiatives on multiple fronts to fight the epidemic.
One such effort was unveiled last week by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Prescription Interdiction & Litigation Task Force, or PIL, will use criminal and civil enforcement methods to crack down on distributors and pharmacies illegally dispensing the drugs. It will also use the False Claims Act to prevent pain management clinics and physicians from writing bogus prescriptions.
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