Advocates lobby to get non-opioid pain treatments insured
By: Brittany Comak
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) - Could treatments like physical therapy or even acupuncture be another way to combat the opioid crisis?
Advocates think so - and they're lobbying legislators to get insurance companies to cover them.
"Science has now shown that these therapies: massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, occupational therapy, are safe, they are conservative, they are evidence based approaches for treating chronic pain, and are superior, as well as more cost effective, than opioids," said Karlo Berger of the Non-Opioid Pain Treatment Coalition.
Joy Greene is another person lobbying for this bill.
She credits massage therapy with getting her off of opioid pain killers after a car accident left her living in the hospital for four years, and going through more than 30 surgeries.
"For the first year I could not live without it," Greene testified at a hearing on the bill. "Everyday I had to take an amazing dose. But the pain never went away."
Greene says a massage therapy visit can cost $100 an hour.
Even though opioid treatments are cheaper, the cost of opioid addiction and overdose on the national economy is far greater – by about $26 billion a year - according to a study by the American Massage Therapy Association.
"The high cost of physical therapy and other alternative treatments in general is a barrier to people getting into therapies and other treatments that could potentially help them," said physical therapist Greg Doucette. "So they turn to opioids as a low cost treatment, which even though it is low cost, it's by far the worst of any of those alternative treatments."
Supporters are now waiting for the bills to be released to the main floors of the house and senate for a vote.
They say the biggest opposition to this has come from insurance companies.
ABC 6 reached out to Blue Cross Blue Shield for comment on the legislation but did not hear back.