KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Insurance Fraud Ring Captures Vulnerable Patients Seeking Addiction Treatment

Stat and the Boston Globe investigate brokers that send patients with premium insurance benefits to treatment centers for expensive care. In other news on the opioid crisis, Buffalo, N.Y., pilots the nation's first drug intervention court. And an Ohio sheriff says his officers will never carry the overdose antidote. News on the national epidemic is also reported from Oregon, Virginia, Minnesota, Maryland and Ohio.

Stat: Desperate For Addiction Treatment, Patients Are Pawns In Lucrative Insurance Fraud Scheme
Drug users, desperate to break addictions to heroin or pain pills, are pawns in a sprawling national network of insurance fraud, an investigation by STAT and the Boston Globe has found. They are being sent to treatment centers hundreds of miles from home for expensive, but often shoddy, care that is paid for by premium health insurance benefits procured with fake addresses. Patient brokers are paid a fee to place insured people in treatment centers, which pocket thousands of dollars in claims for each patient. They often target certain Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, because of their generous benefits and few restrictions on seeking care from out-of-network treatment programs. (Armstrong and Allen 7/7)

The Associated Press: Goal Of Nation’s First Opioid Court: Keep Users Alive
After three defendants fatally overdosed in a single week last year, it became clear that Buffalo’s ordinary drug treatment court was no match for the heroin and painkiller crisis. Now the city is experimenting with the nation’s first opioid crisis intervention court, which can get users into treatment within hours of their arrest instead of days, requires them to check in with a judge every day for a month instead of once a week, and puts them on strict curfews. Administering justice takes a back seat to the overarching goal of simply keeping defendants alive. (Thompson, 7/9)

The Washington Post: Why This Ohio Sheriff Refuses To Let His Deputies Carry Narcan To Reverse Overdoses
No one has come up with a solution to the opioid epidemic that has decimated Rust Belt states, but for people who overdose, Naloxone is about as effective an antidote as there is. The results of the opioid antagonist, which is sprayed up a person's nose and reverses the effect of opioid overdoses, have been likened to resurrecting someone from the dead. Paramedics and firefighters routinely carry the easy-to-administer medication in their vehicles. For police officers in the nation's hardest hit areas, like southwest Ohio, the Food and Drug Administration-approved nasal spray, known by the brand name Narcan, can be as common as handcuffs. Even some librarians have learned to use the drug to revive people who overdose in their stacks. (Wootson, 7/8)

The Oregonian: Oregon Leads U.S. In Seniors Hospitalized For Opioids 
The opioid epidemic sweeping the country has taken a heavy toll on older people in Oregon as nowhere else – an unexpected trend that has caught doctors by surprise. Oregonians age 65 and up are landing in the hospital for opioid overdoses, abuse, dependence and adverse effects at a greater rate than any other state, federal figures show. A dozen other states including Washington and California also show seniors with high hospitalization rates for opioids, including Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet. (Terry, 7/7)

Stat: More Opioids Were Prescribed Here Per Person Than Anywhere In The U.S.
Clinicians in Martinsville, home to fewer than 13,500 people, prescribed almost 4,090 morphine milligram equivalents per person. The national average was 640 milligram equivalents per person. That contrast underlines the dramatic differences in opioid prescribing across the country as health officials try to tackle a national epidemic. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week found that while prescribing fell nationwide from 2010 to 2015, places that prescribed the most opioids were still doling out drugs at rates six times higher than the lowest tier of communities. (Joseph, 7/7)

The Baltimore Sun: Baltimore Gets $2 Million For 'Sobering Center' As Part Of Larger Opioid Prevention Efforts 
Baltimore City will get $2 million to open a 24-hour "sobering center" to help those addicted to drugs, part of a larger pool of money the state is giving out to every county to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic. The Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention announced Friday how the more than $22 million would be distributed among the state's 24 jurisdictions. The money comes from funds the governor committed to fight the opioid epidemic, the federal government's 21st Century Cures Act and the state's crime control and prevention agency. (McDaniels, 7/8)

Cincinnati Enquirer: Jails Finally Offer Drug Treatment, But Is It The Right Kind?
Despite the near blanket availability of treatment programs, the Enquirer review also shows none of the local jails offer all three FDA-approved medications for heroin and opioid addiction disease: methadone, buprenorphine and injectable naltrexone. Offering all the options is important, experts say, because there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. (DeMio, 7/9)

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