Regarding “BCBS treatment for opioids lacking” (June 9): It is important to understand that solving the opioid epidemic is not as easy as relaxing medical safeguards for certain drugs used to treat addiction – especially when doing so may worsen the epidemic or put a patient’s well-being at risk.
I am a pain management specialist, and currently serve as a medical director at Blue Cross NC. I have personally treated patients struggling with opioid use disorder. We cannot prescribe our way out of this epidemic. Blue Cross NC is taking a three-pronged approach that focuses on prevention, intervention and treatment.
Prevention includes opioid risk screening, educating doctors on CDC guidelines and state laws and partnering with pharmacies on the safe disposal of opioids. We have also limited the first-time prescription of short-acting opioids to a seven-day maximum supply as required by the STOP Act. In one month, we stopped 1,700 prescriptions above these limits, and prevented 70,000 excess pills from going into circulation.
Intervention includes using advanced analytics to detect unusual patterns of opioid prescribing and monitoring for doctor and pharmacy shopping. We also require doctors to obtain prior authorization before approving medications such as buprenorphine and extended release opioids. Not only do these drugs carry a high street value, they can interact dangerously with other drugs. We want to ensure that our members get the medications they need – and don’t get ones that could cause them harm.
Treatment resources include a 24-hour phone line for members to get help with addiction. Treatment also includes coverage for multiple forms of non-pharmaceutical pain management therapies and coverage of telehealth options for substance abuse. In addition to these efforts, we committed $10 million to addressing the opioid epidemic in North Carolina this year alone.
Every policy we have, every investment we make and every effort we give is designed to prevent addiction, treat dependency and save lives. We are working with doctors, pharmacists, communities, hospitals, behavioral health providers and others to help solve this problem.
This complex issue will take us all working together to improve outcomes for people in North Carolina. We are making progress – since 2013, Blue Cross NC has lowered opioid prescriptions by 16 percent. There is still more we can do. We are committed to being there every step of the way.
Anuradha Rao-Patel, MD
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response.
Regarding “Trump lawyers claim president can’t obstruct justice, be forced to testify in 20-page memo to Mueller” (June 2): One would think such high-powered and expensive lawyers could have come up with something better. They claim that since the president is the chief law enforcement officer, he cannot obstruct himself.
First, the president is not the chief law enforcement officer. The attorney general is.
Second, we all know a president can be guilty of obstruction of justice. Have Trump’s lawyers forgotten Richard Nixon so soon?
Patricia V. Long
In “House OKs putting ‘In God We Trust’ signs in schools” (June 8), Project Blitz is described as “an effort to flood state legislatures with bills such as ‘In God We Trust’ legislation.”
Project Blitz is more than that. The project’s 116 pages of sample legislation begins with legislation to display “In God We Trust” in public schools and libraries. This bill, like others early in the document, is expected to raise few objections while laying the groundwork for later bills.
These later bills would change the meaning of religious freedom from something that grants Americans freedom of belief to something that permits discrimination based on beliefs. The proposed legislation is particularly harmful to the LGBTQ community and to women.
Project Blitz’s goal is to change the landscape regarding the separation of church and state, which is a fundamental part of our democracy. As the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty so eloquently says, “religious liberty is best protected when church and state remain institutionally separated and neither tries to perform or interfere with the essential mission and work of the other.”