Partnerships matter – within organizations, within communities and within industries.

Collaboration is essential to making a difference and empowering health insurers to curb some of the widespread effects of the opioid epidemic. We are committed to positively impacting the overall health and wellbeing of consumers in the communities we serve.

When we began this work in 2015, our first step was to call together subject matter experts from our health plans—Medicaid, Medicare, employer-sponsored and individual—and clinical experts across pharmacy, medical policy and behavioral health to determine how we could move the needle to make the greatest impact. We determined that our efforts should have discrete plans for focusing on three key areas: prevention, treatment and recovery, and deterrence.

We established aggressive timelines to reduce the number of opioids dispensed by half, as well as created goals for members to receive both talk and drug therapy to improve their chances for sustained recovery. Initial data for 2018 shows the first drop in overdose deaths in two decades, but there is more work to be done.

The collaborative efforts we’ve launched within the healthcare ecosystem have proven to be key to addressing the opioid crisis and delivering the whole person care that consumers need. We sought out support from advocacy groups, policymakers, consumers, providers, industry groups and law enforcement to identify opportunities where we could work together to innovate and lead change.

Anthem’s Public Policy Institute recently published a report outlining several critical prevention initiatives that help minimize unnecessary opioid exposure, such as early intervention, provider outreach and education, and clinical programs. These partnerships assist consumers, employers, behavioral health providers and health plans in combatting the opioid epidemic:

  • The “What’s Up with Opioids?” digital toolkit is a partnership between the National Urban League, Anthem and the Anthem Foundation that educates communities on the risks of misusing opioids.
  • By supporting the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) models in West Virginia and South Carolina, we are helping provide greater access to medication assisted therapy (MAT). ECHO uses videoconferencing to allow providers to conduct virtual clinics, mentoring and patient case presentations between academic medical centers, specialists and community providers interested in becoming MAT-certified.
  • Initiatives led by Shatterproof and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association objectively assess treatment centers and provide information to the general public about the centers’ results and whether they follow evidenced-based medicine.
  • AWARE Recovery Care covers in-network benefits in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine to treat people in their homes using a multi-disciplinary team approach that focuses on an individual’s substance use disorder (SUD) as well as contributing environmental factors.
  • Partnering with the Alliance for Addiction Payment Reform, we built the Addiction Recovery Medical Home Alternative Payment Model, which uses bundled payments, quality achievement payments and performance bonuses to recognize high-quality, evidence-based SUD treatment.
  • The Wellness Council, a subsidiary of the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce and Anthem’s health plan in Indiana, promotes workplace substance misuse awareness, prevention, early invention, treatment and recovery.

We know there are no simple answers. Only by collaborating within our organization and with others throughout the healthcare community can we collectively develop innovative solutions that make a difference in fighting the opioid epidemic.