Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kentucky Revisited: Opioids and HB 1

Back in August, I wrote a post on the immediate impact of HB 1 in Kentucky.  I was a little surprised that most of the comments on that post (several of which I posted, some of which I didn't for reasons of either discretion or propriety) were negative in nature.  HB 1 was characterized as an overreach, dangerous to patients, and costly to the health care system in the state.  Further, the bill's basic constitutionality was brought into question (something along the lines of the KASPER database representing an invasion of privacy... shouldn't a citizen have a right to abuse drugs prescribed by multiple doctors without any consequences?)

This week, however, yields more data on the extent and severity of the opioid epidemic in Kentucky.  Turns out, Kentucky Medicaid patients are prescribed more narcotics than any other class of drug from 2000 to 2010.  According to this report from the University of Kentucky's Center for Business and Economic Research, the state spent $212 million on pain meds over this 10 year period for over 3.8 million prescriptions (just for Medicaid patients!). 

I understand HB 1 isn't perfect.  But I think the detractors owe us more than just a critique.  What's the specific set of alternative policies that could be implemented to help alleviate the epidemic of prescription drug use in Kentucky? 

HB 1 does inflict a greater burden on Kentucky medical providers and it does create a higher standard of care for chronic pain patients.  But I don't believe for one second that the increased cost to the state's health care system of these measures will not be easily overcome by the cost savings related to the mitigation of prescription drug misuse and abuse. 

On Twitter @PRIUM1

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