Insurance companies penalize people who want to help opioid addicts

The flyers went up around the World Headquarters of NewsCut last week, urging people to get training on how to use naloxone, the drug that can save the life of a person who has overdosed on opioids.

People are being urged to carry naloxone; it’s a result of an advisory from the U.S. surgeon general, who urged us to be prepared to save a life.

But there could be a penalty for doing so, WBUR, the Boston public radio station, reports.

Insurance companies are flagging people who’ve bought naloxone, as in the case of one woman who has been trying to buy life insurance but has been denied because of the prescription.

The insurance company said it has a right to ask more questions about prescriptions, and it suggested the woman get a note from her doctor.

But a doctor didn’t prescribe it. In Massachusetts, a doctor doesn’t have to; it’s available over the counter.

The state, in a fit of common sense, established a standing prescription — one prescription works for everyone. (This is not the case in Minnesota, where naloxone is only available by a doctor’s prescription.  See comments section for links to obtaining naloxone from community based organizations who’ve been given grants to provide training.)

“My biggest concern is that people will be discouraged by this from going to get a naloxone rescue kit at the pharmacy,” said Dr. Alex Walley, of the Opioid Overdose Prevention Pilot Program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “So this has been frustrating.”

“We want naloxone to be available to a wide group of people, people who have an opioid use disorder themselves but also [those in] their social networks and other people in a position to rescue them,” Walley said.

The woman in WBUR’s report, a nurse, says she’s stopped carrying naloxone until she untangles the life insurance mess.

“So if something were to happen on the street, I don’t have one, just because I didn’t want another conflict,” she said.

State officials there say they’re reviewing the problem to try to come up with new standards for the proper use of drug history.

“The science tells us that naloxone saves lives, and it is important that all Americans know about the vital role bystanders can play in preventing opioid overdose deaths when equipped with this life-saving medication,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, who insists it’s not a widespread issue.