The AMA last week commended Aetna for joining other health insurers in eliminating prior authorization for treatment of substance use disorders as of March 1.

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"Patient lives will be saved by Aetna's decision to remove prior authorization for treatment of substance use disorders," said Dr. Patrice A. Harris, MD, chair of the AMA board of trustees and chair of the AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse.

"The AMA has advocated strongly for removing this hurdle, and we are pleased by Aetna's announcement," Dr. Harris said. "Increasing access to treatment is crucial to reversing the nation's opioid epidemic, and we urge all payers to show the leadership that Aetna has taken to make patient care a priority over administrative hurdles."

The New York Attorney General recently announced an agreement with insurers Anthem and Cigna to end their policies of prior authorization for medication-assisted treatment in New York and the rest of the nation.

In a follow-up letter (PDF) to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), the AMA urged other state attorneys general to help end insurance company policies that delay or deny care for substance use disorders.

The AMA strongly supported the New York agreement and pledged its support to NAAG with reaching similar agreements with other payers across the nation. The letter noted that more than 33,000 Americans died in 2015 due to an opioid-related overdose, 2 million had a substance use disorder involving opioid analgesics, and nearly 600,000 people have a substance use disorder involving heroin.

In partnership with the Massachusetts Attorney General, the Massachusetts Medical Society has developed materials and resources for physicians and other health care providers who wish to engage their patients in discussions about gun safety.

Guns are a leading cause of death and injury, particularly among children, adolescents, and young adults, and studies show that patients who received physician counseling on firearm safety are more likely to adopt one or more safe gun-storage practices.

The resources clarify state and federal laws regarding physician speech related to firearms and provide clinical information on how to begin a conversation with patients about firearms or respond to patient concerns. Available materials, including brochures for physicians and patients and an online educational video, are available on the Massachusetts Medical Society website.

Longstanding AMA policy encourages physicians to routinely ask patients about firearm ownership and educate them on the dangers posed to children by firearms that are not safely secured.

For additional information about state gun laws, please contact Annalia Michelman of the AMA.

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