Rep. Caldier criticizes HCA’s opioid policy change

OLYMPIA — A decision by the Washington State Health Care Authority to limit supplies of opiate prescriptions to Medicaid clients was harshly criticized by Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, of the state’s 26th Legislative District.

HCA sent an email to legislators last week announcing it would be changing its policy regarding the prescription of opiates to Apple Health, or Medicare, patients. Beginning Oct. 1, patients 20 years and younger will be prescribed no more than a three-day supply of prescription opiate medication. Those 21 years and older will be prescribed no more than a seven-day supply.

In its email, the HCA wrote that the policy change will not affect patients being treated for cancer or those receiving palliative or end-of-life care. Exceptions also will be made for those receiving treatment for chronic pain.

“This is a deeply irresponsible policy change that will deprive our state’s most vulnerable of adequate post-surgery pain management,” Caldier said. “We absolutely need to solve our state’s opioid crisis, but there is no long-term research to suggest setting pill limits will effectively achieve that goal.

“In fact, this policy could very well result in an increase in the potency of opiate prescriptions in order to accommodate for these new limits. How the HCA can make this policy change without considering the size of the individual, complexity of the surgery or potency of the narcotic is beyond me. I can’t imagine a more thoughtless approach to patient care.”

Caldier also criticized the agency’s process for making the change.

“This is yet another example of a state agency asserting its rulemaking authority behind closed doors without first receiving buy-in from members of the community. The fact this policy change hasn’t even been publicly announced yet when it goes into effect in just over a month is also problematic.”

Caldier said she is hopeful Washington state residents will register their opposition to the policy change by contacting her so she can “make their voice heard on this issue” by relaying their concerns to the HCA.

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