DOI to Insurers: Don’t Judge People that Possess Narcan

Last year, an insurance company denied life insurance coverage to a Boston Medical Center (BMC) nurse because she included Narcan on her application’s medication list.  Narcan (naloxone) reverses opioid overdoses and is available over the counter to help stem the incidences of opioid-related deaths in the commonwealth. Massachusetts law allows Narcan or other such medicines to be dispensed without prescriptions to friends and family of individuals at risk of overdose, or to anyone else (such as a BMC nurse with an expertise in addiction treatment) who is in a position to help those with substance use disorder.

But insurance companies may mistake someone carrying Narcan as someone with a substance use disorder and consider that person an insurance risk.  That’s what happened to the BMC nurse last year and that’s what caused the state’s Division of Insurance this month to issue a bulletin on the issue.

“The Division expects that prior to making an underwriting decision, carriers will obtain information sufficient to determine if an applicant has obtained a prescription for a medication that is not relevant to the applicant’s health or is designed to prevent disease,” DOI wrote.  Denying coverage outright because someone had obtained Narcan “would defeat the Commonwealth’s important public health efforts,” according to DOI. Another example of insurance company overreach, DOI wrote, may involve drugs used not only to treat HIV infection but also as a pre-exposure prophylactic to prevent HIV.

Massachusetts’ continued efforts to combat substance use disorder are working. According to DPH estimates released last week, there will be a total of approximately 1,974 opioid-related overdoses in 2018, down 4% from 2017’s 2,056 deaths. It’s the second consecutive year opioid-related deaths have dropped in Massachusetts.