AMA, CMS and Manatt Health Release Study of Colorado’s Efforts to Reverse Opioid Epidemic

Wednesday, January 16, 2019 04:24 AM
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Spotlight analysis finds progress made on numerous fronts, recommends next steps for policymakers, insurers and physicians

The American Medical Association (AMA), Colorado Medical Society (CMS) and Manatt Health released a report today that shows Colorado has implemented meaningful reforms in response to the opioid epidemic though further steps are needed to save even more lives. 

The Colorado spotlight analysis found that progress is being made to increase access to evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders, several pilot projects have improved care for patients with pain, and increased access to the opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone has resulted in thousands of lives saved.

“We conducted this analysis because it’s essential that policymakers know what is working, and where additional progress can be made,” said AMA President-elect Dr. Patrice A. Harris, who also chairs the AMA Opioid Task Force. “Colorado has implemented many important policies that are impacting patients’ access to care. Using this momentum, we think Colorado can go even further to save lives of those affected by opioid use disorder.”

Colorado is the second in a series of individual state studies. The AMA released a study on Pennsylvania last month.
Based on available data, review of policies, and discussions with key policymakers, the analysis found four key areas where Colorado is succeeding:

  • Adoption of policies and funding to increase access to medication assisted treatment, including initial steps to reduce administrative barriers, increased funding to address workforce issues, and plans to increase Medicaid coverage in residential settings.
  • Examining compliance with mental health and substance use disorder parity laws through the Colorado Division of Insurance’s review of insurers’ conduct and the establishment of an ombudsman’s office to assist patients in accessing behavioral health care.
  • Increasing Medicaid patients’ access to non-opioid alternatives for pain management, including coverage of non-opioid prescription medications and alternative therapies such as physical therapy, occupational therapy and additional behavioral health care treatment options.
  • Expanding access to naloxone with early legislation and implementation of a standing order for naloxone, Good Samaritan protections, and elimination of prior authorization for naloxone under Medicaid.

“This analysis comes at an important time for Colorado,” said Dr. Debra Parsons, CMS President. “Over the last six years, Colorado has developed policies, enacted laws and made important strides to have all stakeholders work together to reverse the opioid epidemic. While we continue these successful initiatives, we must closely evaluate how they are working so we can ensure we are putting our efforts in the right places.”

The analysis also highlighted the work of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, which has brought together several hundred stakeholders and continues to develop a data-driven, county- and state-level data dashboard that can be used to help direct resources to areas of greatest need.

The analysis also found areas where additional progress could be made:

  • Eliminating barriers to treatment, including further steps to increase enforcement of mental health and substance use disorder parity.
  • Expanding access to providers of medication assisted treatment, especially in the state’s rural areas.
  • Leveraging successful state pilots to increase access to multimodal pain care and comprehensive benefit and formulary designs.
  • Linking those whose lives have been saved by naloxone with follow-up treatment to begin and sustain recovery.
  • Evaluating state policies and programs to determine what is improving patient care and reduce opioid-related harms, including whether current policies may be resulting in unintended consequences.

“Many of the recommendations in this report related to commercial insurance—such as strengthening our market conduct examinations to better enforce mental health parity and more comprehensive front-end reviews of the number of addiction professionals in insurers’ networks—are fair and reasonable approaches that are within our authority to immediately tackle,” said Michael Conway, Colorado Insurance Commissioner and head of the state’s Division of Insurance. “We look forward to working with Colorado’s health insurers and physicians to implement solutions that help ensure consumers receive the care that they need to help end our state’s opioid epidemic.”

Full report here:
Jack Deutsch, American Medical Association
Ph: (202) 789-7442

Kate Alfano, Colorado Medical Society
Ph: (512) 788-0085

Angel Fahy, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP
Ph: (212) 704-1994

About the American Medical Association:
The American Medical Association is the powerful ally and unifying voice for America’s physicians, the patients they serve, and the promise of a healthier nation. The AMA attacks the dysfunction in health care by removing obstacles and burdens that interfere with patient care. It reimagines medical education, training, and lifelong learning for the digital age to help physicians grow at every stage of their careers, and it improves the health of the nation by confronting the increasing chronic disease burden. For more information, visit 
About the Colorado Medical Society
The Colorado Medical Society advocates for Colorado physicians, residents and medical students in the legislative, regulatory and legal arenas, and provides personalized support for physicians at every stage of their career. We continually strive to fulfill our mission to champion health care issues that improve patient care, promote physician professional satisfaction and create healthier communities in Colorado. For more information, visit

About Manatt Health
Manatt Health integrates legal and consulting expertise to better serve the complex needs of clients across the healthcare system. Combining legal excellence, firsthand experience in shaping public policy, sophisticated strategy insight and deep analytic capabilities, we provide uniquely valuable professional services to the full range of health industry players. Our diverse team of more than 160 attorneys and consultants from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, and its consulting subsidiary, Manatt Health Strategies, LLC, is passionate about helping our clients advance their business interests, fulfill their missions and lead healthcare into the future. For more information, visit 

Posted in: Press Releases | Initiatives | Prescription Drug Abuse


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