FROM THE POLICY WORKING GROUP
By Samantha Simmons
Chair, Policy Working Group
Oregonâ€™s Aim to Use Integrative Health to Cut Opioid Use Among Back Pain Sufferers
In late 2015, the Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC) of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), approved changes to coverage for the treatments of back conditions in the Oregon Health Plan (OHP-Oregon’s Medicaid program). Starting in January 2016, treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy, physical therapy, yoga therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy will be covered in the OHP.Â The goal of this new program is to provide patients with back pain alternatives to opiates for addressing their pain, and by doing so, prevent the pain from becoming chronic and reduce opioid addiction. This model will help people manage their pain with less reliance on medication and fewer costly surgeries. Similar to the rest of the nation, OHP has spent a great deal of public money on treatments such as surgery and medications, without good evidence that they improve patient’s lives.Â
HERC based its decision on the recommendations of the Back Lines Reorganization Task Force, a very innovative special workgroup consisting of a neurosurgeon, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, an orthopedic surgeon, a primary care physician, a physiatrist, physical therapists, specialists in mental health and addiction, a health plan medical director, pain specialists, and a national expert in the evidence on treatments for back pain. This Task Force reviewed a large body of evidence about the effectiveness of various treatments and the potential harms of certain therapies.
We in Oregon are thrilled that OHA has adopted this policy and hope that it will be a successful model for the rest of the country.