Opioid Epidemic: Bill introduced to force doctors to pay for addiction treatments

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FILE – In this Aug. 29, 2018, file photo, oxycodone pills are displayed in New York. Newly released federal data shows how drugmakers and distributors increased shipments of opioid painkillers across the U.S. as the nation’s addiction crisis accelerated from 2006 to 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

BOSTON – A Massachusetts State Representative has introduced a bill on Beacon hill that would require doctors who prescribe opioids to pay for addiction treatments if their patients become addicted.

State Representative Peter Capano (D-Lynn) says he does not expect the bill to pass in its original form but introduced it to start a discussion on opioid addiction.

According to Boston 25 News Rep. Capano says, “75% of heroin users say they started out with prescription opioids.”

House Bill 3656 would mandate doctors prescribing high-strength opioids to pick up the cost of the first 90 days of in-patient hospitalization costs if their patient becomes addicted and subsequently hospitalized.

Opioid prescribing has been declining in the US for the last nine years, but the number of days per prescription continues to rise. The CDC says that in 2017 it was up to 18 days.

The average number includes prescriptions for end-of-life care as well as acute pain.

Those who oppose the bill fear it would deter doctors from prescribing the proper medication to patients who need it.

“They’re doing the right things, they’re not smoking, they’re not drinking,” said Rep. Soter. “They know the risks of taking chronic pain medicine and how it reacts with other things.”

State Rep. Mike Soter (R-Bellingham) believes prescribed opioids are the wrong target and says the focus should be on illegal fentanyl.

Despite their different stances on the bill, Soter and Capano agree something has to be done about the opioid epidemic.

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