State Senate passes bill expanding addiction treatment coverage to 30 days

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BOSTON >> Health insurers would be required to provide 30 days of addiction treatment coverage under a bill the Senate passed on Friday.

The bill (S 2432) proposed a major adjustment to a law passed in 2014 providing coverage for 14 days of treatment, according to its sponsor, Sen. John Keenan.

Keenan, a Quincy Democrat, said during a session attended by three senators Friday afternoon that the state does not have enough revenue to meet demand for addiction services without insurance companies playing a greater role.

"Thirty days is a critical point in the treatment continuum, and not having insurance coverage up to that point I think is impeding our efforts to address the epidemic," Keenan told the News Service.

The coverage requirement would result in a three to five cent increase in monthly health insurance premiums, totaling up to an additional 60 cents a year, according to Keenan's office.

A treatment facility would be required to provide the insurance carrier with notification and an initial treatment plan within 48 hours of a patient's admission for treatment, according to a Senate Ways and Means Committee bill summary.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg joined Keenan and Weymouth Republican Sen. Patrick O'Connor at Friday's session.

During the session, Keenan said he hoped the House and Gov. Charlie Baker would also act quickly on the bill.

Fifty-six House lawmakers signed onto a May letter to the Health Care Financing Committee urging support for the bill.

Medical directors of the carriers represented by the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans and a group of business organizations sent letters to Baker, Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo Friday afternoon, raising concerns about the bill after the Senate approved it.

"While we recognize the urgency in addressing the ongoing opioid crisis and remain committed to working together to craft solutions, Senate Bill 1502 will do little to improve care for individuals struggling with opioid addiction and will increase health care costs for Massachusetts employers at a time when many are struggling with finding affordable options," read the letter signed by business groups including the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the North Shore Chamber of Commerce and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Eric Linzer, MAHP's senior vice president of public affairs and operations, said there is "no clinical evidence to indicate a specific number of days for treatment of opioid addiction."

"The current 14-day requirement has only been in effect for less than a year, so it seems arbitrary to be increasing the number in a time when there is very little information and data on how the current 14-day requirement is working," Linzer told the News Service.

The coverage mandates in Keenan's bill would take effect on Oct. 1, 2017.

Keenan said he expects the bill's opponents to seek to "weaken" its provisions.

"I'm not going to let it go," Keenan said. "Maybe they'll succeed and maybe not, but I'm not going to let them weaken it without a fight. Not to sound melodramatic, but the stakes are pretty high here."


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