Tina and Melinda are both addicted to opioids. Both of these women are paying for suboxone treatment for their opioid use disorder.

Tina has private insurance. Melinda has Medicaid coverage.

Which of these two women is more likely to get an appointment? Will providers discriminate when it comes to the method for paying for suboxone treatment?

That’s what researchers wanted to find out. So, they used “secret shoppers” to get answers.

Investigators from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, RAND Corporation, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Departments of Pediatrics and Health Policy collaborated on the study.

Here’s what they discovered.

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It’s Hard for Anyone to Get an Appointment

Researchers made 3,420 simulated patient calls for the study. The callers identified themselves as women with Medicaid coverage or private insurance coverage. All were requesting appointments with buprenorphine providers.

Guess how many successfully landed an insurance-covered appointment? Less than half. Even with Medicaid or private insurance.

Only 45 percent of women with private insurance coverage were able to get an appointment. And just 38 percent of women with Medicaid insurance were as well.

According to the study’s lead author Michael Richards, MD, PhD, MPH, and associate professor at Baylor University in Waco:

The most striking finding is — for both callers that had private insurance and callers that had Medicaid — just how infrequently they’re able to actually leverage those insurance benefits when it comes to getting an appointment for opioid use disorder. That really speaks to the many serious and substantive access hurdles these individuals have to clear.

It’s Harder for Medicaid Patients…in Certain Areas

Previous research has shown significant differences in access to opioid use disorder treatment between patients with Medicaid versus private insurance. And this study was no different.

However, researchers discovered that these results varied based on one key factor.

Researchers found that callers with Medicaid were 11 percent less likely to get an appointment if Medicaid coverage was not common in the surrounding community.

But, as the percentage of Medicaid coverage in the local community went up, so did the number of Medicaid patients getting appointments.

In areas where Medicaid coverage was prevalent enough, the difference in access to care was insignificant.

Causes of Discrimination in Paying for Suboxone Treatment 

Investigators can’t say for sure what is causing this disparity. They suspect it might be as simple as paperwork issues.

According to the study findings, providers in areas with a higher rate of Medicaid coverage may be more familiar with business processes needed to obtain payment from Medicaid for buprenorphine treatment.

But the problem is most likely multifaceted, they admit.

Whatever the issues are, researchers suggest that these findings guide future efforts. They advise, “Efforts to improve access to treatment may be best targeted to areas where Medicaid prevalence is lower.”

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MAT Numbers Remain Low

In 2020, nearly 70,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses. Currently, buprenorphine is one of three medication-assisted treatments (MAT) approved by the World Health Organization and the FDA to treat opioid use disorder. This medication can help diminish withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

This, in turn, lowers the potential for opioid misuse.

The number of clinicians who can prescribe buprenorphine has increased 300 percent. But less than 33 percent of individuals with opioid use disorder receive any kind of MAT. Researchers hope their efforts can make a change in these numbers.

“Making it through the structural barriers to just getting into treatment for opioid use disorder is extraordinarily hard, even if you’re the most motivated person on the planet,” says study principal investigator Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH. He’s from the department of health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

“We are seeing record-setting rates of overdose death, and for every overdose death, there are a slew of other hospitalizations and additional family members affected. I hope our continued research garners the attention of the public and policymakers and more clearly communicates that we must put solutions in place to break down these barriers.”

Call 800-407-7195(Who Answers?) today to speak with a specialist who can talk with you about treatment options.

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“When will things ever get easier,” Samantha wondered aloud. Thanks to this pandemic, she couldn’t interact with anyone for four more weeks! That’s an eternity. Samantha knows if she doesn’t have support for a single day, it feels like she’s on the verge of kissing her six weeks of sobriety goodbye. “Guess it’s time to see what these virtual NA meetings are all about.” 

Whether it’s due to quarantine, car trouble, or childcare issues, many people find it hard to attend in-person Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings – but they need them.

For all the downsides of the Covid-19 pandemic, one bright spot has been the upsurge in online resources. Now, it’s pretty darn simple to attend an NA meeting without even leaving your house. And just like in-person meetings, these virtual meetings offer crucial support and encouragement to stay clean and sober.

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How Virtual Support Groups Work

Here’s a look at how these online 12-Step meetings offer help:

  • Learn how to cope: Get insights from others who have been where you are. There ARE healthy ways to deal with your emotions and stress. But they aren’t always intuitive. You have to learn the best strategies to use. Learn about them by attending a virtual meeting.
  • Fight urges: How can you deal with triggers? What’s the best way to fight urges when they hit you out of nowhere? Virtual NA meetings can help you learn how to deal with these challenges. You’ll learn new insights and pick up new skills that will help you overcome even the strongest urges.
  • Stay motivated: We all need encouragement. And we could use fresh ideas to stay motivated. With virtual NA meetings, you can learn new ways to keep yourself on the right track and receive encouragement from others to help you stay there. It’s good to have cheerleaders in your corner, and virtual NA meetings can help you find this support, no matter where you are physically.
  • Get plugged in: You don’t have to do this alone. And you shouldn’t try to. Virtual NA meetings give you access to a strong recovery network. They plug you into resources and support that will help you maintain sobriety and allow you to thrive in the clean-and-sober life. Virtual meetings remove many challenges and barriers so you can reach out and get the help you need.

The Convenience of Virtual 12-Step Meetings

And what may be the biggest help of all? You can get all the support you need from anywhere in the world – as long as you have an Internet connection.

Virtual NA meetings offer all the above benefits of in-person meetings, but offer additional advantages.

  • They work with tight schedules: No drive-time needed. Plug into a virtual NA meeting between other responsibilities of work and home. And with meetings across the nation, it’s easy to find one at all different times of day.
  • They don’t require transportation: Don’t have a car? Unable to drive? Don’t want to get out during bad weather? No problem. Attend a virtual NA meeting from home.
  • They don’t require childcare: Access support without finding a babysitter. You can be at home with your kids and get the help you need, with virtual NA meetings.
  • They don’t require masks: Virtual meetings are perfect for those who need to follow COVID-related restrictions. Remain a safe distance while connecting when you need support most.
  • They are available everywhere: Whether you’re traveling or are living in a rural area with limited in-person options, virtual NA meetings are a great way to get support anywhere in the world. Simply plug in on your favorite device and find a meeting to attend online.

Don’t wait Until It’s Too Late.

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Find a Virtual NA Meeting Near You

Not a tech guru? No worries. All you need is a phone, computer, or tablet to access a virtual NA meeting. Most virtual NA meetings use Zoom, Skype, or other simple video-based programs to run the meetings. These systems are easy to install on your device, and they walk you through everything step by step – so you can access virtual NA meetings in no time.

Plus, Narcotics Anonymous has a helpful directory and an easy-to-use app to help you find and attend a virtual meeting. (Android users get the app here.) You can even start your own virtual NA meeting. Here’s the scoop on how to go about doing that.

The organization has also set up a help page to provide more virtual meeting resources. With these convenient online options, it’s never been easier to get the support you need.

For information about treatment options for you or a loved one, call 800-407-7195(Who Answers?) today.

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