The American opioid epidemic is officially a public health emergency, with over 175 lives lost to opioid overdose every day. The time to lower the barriers to lifesaving treatments is now.

And yet, when it comes to certain long-term recovery solutions like medication-assisted treatment (MAT), lack of access is rampant. Only three out of every 100 people living with opioid addiction receive the most effective treatment – MAT – despite its proven effectiveness and the recent endorsement of the White House Opioid Commission. Medicare, for example, does not provide seniors access to all FDA-approved MAT treatments. With our rapidly aging population, this is adding fuel to the already raging fire of addiction and overdoses, and must be addressed.

In case you missed it, watch the FB Live as we discuss the role of MAT in addressing the opioid crisis, the White House Opioid Commission’s related recommendations, and Congress’ role in making the best practice for opioid addiction treatment the common practice, particularly in Medicare and other government sponsored healthcare plans.

Did you know?

  • According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), nearly 4 in 10 people above age 65 use five or more prescriptionswhich increases the risk of drug misuse or abuse.
  • Seniors commonly take opioids for pain management such as oxycodone (OxyContin), oxycodone with acetaminophen (Percocet), and hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Vicodin). These are all medicines with a high risk for misuse or abuse. 
  • Symptoms of prescription drug misuse or abuse can be hard to recognize in older adults, as they are similar to symptoms of aging, such as confusion and memory loss.
  • In 2016, 1 out of every 3 Medicare beneficiaries received at least one prescription opioid through Part D according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In total, 14.4 million of the 43.6 million beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part D received opioids.

For more information about the opioid crisis, seniors, and Medicare, check out our fact sheet here.

Panel Participants:

  • Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, AOR Advisor, Member of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis
  • Former Congresswoman Mary BonoCo-Founder, Collaborative for Effective Prescription Opioid Policies (CEPOP)
  • Mark Parrino, President, American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, Inc. (AATOD)
  • Dr. Frances Levin, Past President of American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry; Kennedy-Leavy Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University; Chief of Substance Abuse Division at NY Presbyterian Hospital
  • Moderator: Brianna Ehley, POLITICO Healthcare Reporter