Arizona Addicts Left in the Cold Over Political Tug-of-War
12/06/17: Addiction \ Arizona Opioid Epidemic \ Arizona Rehab Centers Lawsuit
It’s December, a balmy 75 degrees in the desert but you wouldn’t know it from the chill in the air. Some say the freeze on relations between insurance companies and consumers has always been a part of daily life. Never so much as when the opioid crisis hit Arizona. While our state bears similarities to almost every other state in the country, where thousands of pain-afflicted individuals are left holding the proverbial bag (heroin) in search of relief from prescription pills’ withdrawals, there is a difference. How did Arizona addicts get to this place of despair? I believe it began in 2010 and was evident one fateful day on the airport tarmac in 2012, that would signify what was to come.
A Wiggle on Behalf of Your Constituents Goes a Long Way, Down
Obamacare was not overwhelmingly received in Arizona, for a myriad of reasons. Then Governor Jan Brewer, who rejected the proposed state-run ACA healthcare exchange, continued a strained (at best) relationship with the President. It was never so evident as the day they met at the airport, Brewer shaking her forefinger admonishing him and the President, in return, seemingly ignoring her in midsentence.
Whatever the reasons behind the decisions made by our political officials (some obvious, some we’ll never know) it’s the people that live with the repercussions. Arizona was left at the mercy of federal-based programs leaving those needing coverage, more vulnerable than ever.
And as time moved on, more and more healthcare insurers left the exchange, leaving residents of the Grand Canyon state flapping in the wind, with ridiculously high premiums increasing more than 71 percent. That was then.
This is now.
Insurance Provider Plays Monopoly in Arizona
Arizona is left with only one insurance provider on the exchange, Health Net. It appears that they have taken advantage of their solo position by shutting down their obligations to pay area drug and alcohol addiction treatment facilities. Why?
The company cites widespread fraud within the rehab business. And they may have a point.
Business opportunists find a government loophole and run with it. And so they did. Part of the Affordable Care Act was the provision that behavioral health services must be covered by health insurance plans. Coverage recipients that have pre-existing conditions, such as the disease of addiction, cannot be denied treatment. This regulation had the best of intentions, but provided a gateway to overreach and misuse.
So, who pays the price? Addicts, and those who genuinely want to help them.
Arizona Addicts Pay Now and Later
Of course, there have been a slew of incidents across the country where fake rehabs set up shop to prey on the people that need help the most. Just ask any owner of a legitimate addiction recovery center. The industry, though well-meaning, is wrought with bait and switch tactics on consumers.
- Website redirects
- Google hijacking
- Patient Brokers get paid to send rehab calls to a specific treatment facility
- Falsifying patient addresses to secure In-Network rates
- Scouting/geotargeting people currently or previously in rehab, sober living or amidst relapse
- Overbilling for medication and other health services
Drug Dealers and Insurers Are in It for the Money
Just like a coin, there are two sides. Prescription drug companies pushed opioids, for example, on the medical community and the public without adequate guidelines on safe use. Then, once drug makers’ hands were slapped by the federal government, restrictions were created, putting Arizona opioid users in the thralls of withdrawals. Like elsewhere in the U.S., many sought refuge in heroin, with fatal consequences. With the opioid epidemic carrying a death rate of two Arizonans per day, uncovering a solution is paramount to community livelihood.
With increasing numbers of opioid addiction, requests for treatment and recovery, Health Net can’t seem to distinguish between what’s real and authentic regarding admissions. But is it just and fair to stop payments and shut down access to rehab and sober living facilities in Arizona that serve the public well? Where does that leave our quest for solutions to the opioid crisis? In the abyss of bureaucracy.
Statistics Serve More than Convenience, but Truth
If we look at the rise in opioid addiction over the last handful of years, it might shed some light to the skyrocketing numbers of addiction treatment center needs, admissions, and associated insurance payouts.
As prescriptions for opioids grew and was an accepted practice amongst doctors, no one gave it a second look. But as the illicit drug manufacturers in China began infiltrating the U.S. market with dangerous synthetic drugs that could kill with a single use, more attention was given to opioid use by law enforcement and the FDA.
As the shift came in perception with an even more daunting reality on the streets, the opioid epidemic was born. Through this evolution of opioid presence in our country, so too is a partnering increase in mortality rates and cost for treatment and recovery care.
Though Health Net is using this cost increase as a platform against the rehab facilities to show fraudulent billing practices, are the numbers real or does their claim have merit?
Addiction Treatment Patients and their Families Need to Be Proactive
No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, if you’re caught in the middle of the opioid epidemic, it’s difficult to know where to turn for answers. How do you know what to expect, what to ask, and which addiction treatment and recovery facility and plans are best for your circumstances?
Opioid Addiction Has a Wider Network than You Think
If the U.S. is facing opioid misuse in epidemic proportions, then it stands to reason that many of us may know someone, who knows someone, that’s been down this road before. Reach out. Ask them about their experience in searching for treatment. Ask what questions they were asking addiction professionals in the process and use what works for you.
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