Attorney General Hector Balderas
ALBUQUERQUE ― As an expansion of Project OPEN: Opioid Prevention and Education Network, Attorney General Hector Balderas joined a coalition of 37 states and territories urging health insurance companies to examine financial incentives that contribute to the opioid epidemic in New Mexico.
The bipartisan coalition announced today a two-step strategy intended to identify problematic policies and encourage reforms to spur increased use of non-opioid alternatives for treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain. Last week, Attorney General Balderas filed a lawsuit against the largest opioid manufacturers and distributors with the support of law enforcement and public officials from Española to Las Cruces.
“New Mexico is in a state of emergency with the opioid crisis that is ravaging our youth, families, law enforcement, healthcare system, economy and local government agencies,” Balderas said. “I started Project OPEN in January with the support of law enforcement and public officials from around the state because we must pool our resources and seek out every available option to combat this public health emergency together. Massive pharmaceutical companies will no longer be allowed to reap enormous profits by inundating our suffering communities with opioids, and I will hold them accountable to fund our efforts to attack this crisis in New Mexico.”
Describing the opioid epidemic as “the preeminent public health crisis of our time,” the 37 attorneys general will send a letter to industry trade groups and major insurance providers nationwide. It urges insurers to review their coverage and payment policies as the starting point in a coalition-initiated dialogue focused on incentive structures across the insurance industry.
“We have witnessed firsthand the devastation that the opioid epidemic has wrought on our States in terms of lives lost and the costs it has imposed on our healthcare system and the broader economy,” Attorney General Hector Balderas joined the coalition in writing. “As the chief legal officers of our States, we are committed to using all tools at our disposal to combat this epidemic and to protect patients suffering from chronic pain or addiction.”
The attorneys general, in acknowledging the important role insurance companies play in reducing opioid prescriptions, hope to assess the positive and negative impacts incentive structures have on the opioid epidemic. They contend incentives that promote use of non-opioid techniques will increase the practicality of medical providers considering such treatments, including physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care and non-opioid medications.
Increased reliance on these alternatives will combat a significant factor contributing to the epidemic – the over-prescription of opioid painkillers. The letter notes the number of opioid prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999, despite Americans reporting a steady amount of pain.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined attorneys general from Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia as co-sponsors of this effort.
Other attorneys general signing the letter are Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin.