Record numbers of Americans are dying of opioid overdoses, yet medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – a key tool for those fighting addiction – is utilized far too infrequently. Cigna is working to change that as part of a broader strategy to reduce overdoses from drugs such as fentanyl, heroin., and oxycodone.
Cigna began rolling out an overdose reduction strategy pilot program in 2018 that includes access to providers who offer MAT treatment in five Cigna markets (Connecticut, Chicago, Mid-Atlantic, New York City/New Jersey, and Philadelphia). By the end of 2021, opioid overdoses among Cigna customers eligible for the pilot program fell by 18%. “MAT is the gold standard of helping customers deal with their substance-use addiction,” said Dr. Scott Josephs, Cigna’s chief medical officer.
In comparison, Cigna saw opioid overdoses increase by 16% in areas not yet targeted by the new strategy during the same period, which included the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID has led to increased loneliness and mental health disorders such as stress and depression, which has exacerbated this epidemic of opioids,” Dr. Josephs said.
Under this strategy, Cigna helps patients understand the treatments and other options covered under their benefit, which can include counseling, peer recovery support, behavioral case management support, and use of medications including buprenorphine, methadone., and naltrexone. to treat opioid addictions. The medications serve a number of functions, including helping normalize the patient’s brain chemistry, blocking the intoxicating effects if the patient continues to use opioids, and reducing or eliminating cravings for the drugs.
MAT programs are offered in a variety of inpatient, outpatient, or virtual settings. For example, Bicycle Health’s virtual opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment., available in 24 states, is part of Evernorth’s behavioral health network and is available to Cigna health plan customers in employer-sponsored plans or who have coverage through marketplace exchange plans.
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