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In a battle between doctors in the Utah House, lawmakers on Monday sidetracked a bill seeking to require health-insurance companies to adopt policies that may help prevent opiate overdoses and addiction.
It came as physician-legislators argued whether insurance companies or doctors should decide how and whether opioids should be prescribed and the House voted 41-29 to put consideration on hold to allow the sides to try to work out differences.
Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, a physician, sponsored HB90 saying insurance-coverage changes could help reverse changes that have helped make opioids a drug of first-choice, instead of being used only when other options won't work.
"The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Utah has the fourth highest opiate overdose death rate in the country," Ward said. "We need to grab as many different levers as we can to change our habits."
Rep. Stewart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, a physician and surgeon, said doctors should be the ones making decisions on prescriptions. He added the bill could allow different policies by each different insurer, and could create confusion.
Barlow added that the bill is opposed by such groups as the Utah Medical Association and the Utah Academy of Pain Medication.
Ward said his bill includes some of the more clear-cut proposals being considered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to reduce opioid addiction and overdoses.
But the House supported Barlow's suggestion to delay the bill temporarily to allow further discussion.
The bill currently would require insurance companies to adopt policies in five areas:
• Non-narcotic treatments of chronic pain.
• Treatment of people who are addicted.
• Prescribing opioids at the same time as some sedatives that increase the chance of addiction.
• Prescribing high-dose opioids by primary care providers, or doctors who provide regular day-to-day health care. Pain clinics are exempted from that.
• Avoiding the inadvertent transition of short-term opioids for injuries into long-term opioid dependence.