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After a battle between doctors in the Utah House, lawmakers Tuesday passed a compromise bill to encourage health-insurance companies to adopt policies that may help prevent opiate overdoses and addiction.
HB90 was approved 73-1 and sent to the Senate.
Its sponsor, Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, a physician, originally proposed to mandate that insurance companies develop such opiate policies. Now, it merely suggests that they do but they must report to the state if they have adopted them or not.
Rep. Stewart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, a physician and surgeon, earlier argued that Ward's original bill might take the decisions on prescribing drugs largely out of the hands of doctors, and give them to insurance companies.
The compromise was supported by all groups, Ward said, but moves more slowly than he had hoped toward reducing overdoses.
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, told the House even more steps are needed. He said a young family friend died last week from an overdose. He had been prescribed drugs even though he was a known addict and drug abuser. He said better policies about what may be prescribed and when could help.
Ward told the House earlier, "The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Utah has the fourth highest opiate overdose death rate in the country…. We need to grab as many different levers as we can to change our habits."
Ward has 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.
It urges 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.
• Avoiding the inadvertent transition of short-term opioids for injuries into long-term opioid dependence.