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Advocating for A.1832: Restricting Health Insurers From Limiting Access to Pain Medications
By Natacha T. Pires, MBBS

On June 7th, we came closer to eliminating barriers to care and appropriate treatments for our neuropathy community in New Jersey. By the majority of votes, New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee—chaired by Assemblyman Herb Conway—voted in support of the Assembly Bill 1832 (or A.1832), known as the Step Therapy Bill.

Stand Up For Neuropathy

In anticipation of the June 7th hearing on (A.1832), The Neuropathy Association had issued an advocacy alert to its New Jersey-based constituents, urging them to contact NJ Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee members to inform the Committee members of the importance of A.1832.

A.1832 aims to:

  • help minimize patient suffering;
  • alleviate the potential for abuse and diversion of unused (failed) pain medications building up in home medicine cabinets;
  • potentially reduce the prescribing of opioids;
  • potentially help to reduce/minimize health care expenditures; and
  • minimize the administrative burden on prescribers and pharmacies.

This bill would eliminate the ability of health insurers in New Jersey to unnecessarily limit access to pain medication.

Step therapy (also referred to as fail-first) is one of the many tools employed by health care payers (insurance companies) to manage utilization of health care services.  In the case of medications, the step therapy process usually requires a patient to try medications for his or her conditions in a series of steps to document if he/she “failed” to respond to a therapy before moving up the ladder to the next therapy.  While the goal of step therapy policies makes sense, the practical reality is often different.  As patients, providers, prescribers, and advocates, one of the major concerns we all agree on is restricted access to medicine. Step therapy is not in the best interest of patients or the health care system because it undermines the provider's (physician’s) medical judgment and undercuts the relationship between providers and patients.  Unfortunately, this process is driven by cost considerations rather than appropriate patient care.  While the goal of step therapy policies for the insurer may seem to make sense to control costs, the practical reality for people with pain is often very different and such policies can impede patients from getting access to therapies which could help them.

We thank everyone who took the time to contact the members of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee and encouraged them to vote in support of A.1832.

Advocacy campaigns work best when you participate to lend your voice, describe your experiences, and involve your networks of family and friends so we have the strength in numbers to be heard and to make a difference. We look forward to keeping you informed about this important legislation and our combined efforts with other patient organizations to ensure its passage.

 

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