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July 26, 2018

DES MOINES, IA – Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced today 2.2 in 1,000 of its South Dakota members were diagnosed with an opioid-use disorder last year compared to 5.9 in 1,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield members nationally, according to a new report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). This is the lowest rate in the nation.

“While we are encouraged by these findings, we can’t lose sight that opioid addiction is still an issue in the state,” said Matt Hosford, Wellmark vice president and chief pharmacy officer. “Wellmark is committed to working with South Dakota stakeholders to address this crisis.”

In South Dakota, Wellmark promotes following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain. Wellmark is also supportive of public health efforts, such as drug take-back programs within the state and workgroups aimed to curb the inappropriate use of opioids.

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How South Dakota compares to national trends

Opioid prescription change per 1,000 members, 2013-2017

  • South Dakota decreased 33%
  • Nation trend decreased 29%

Members with total opioid prescriptions with dose scripts less than 50 MME and duration less than 8 days for all prescriptions

  • South Dakota 45%
  • National trend 45%
  • Members who filled their first opioid prescription with dose less than 50 MME and duration less than 8 days
    • South Dakota 63%
    • National trend 67%

Note: Members diagnosed with cancer or who were undergoing palliative or hospice care were excluded from this analysis.

This data also does not include Wellmark's entire book of business.

The report “America’s Opioid Epidemic in America: An Update,” External Site represents a comprehensive study of national medical and pharmacy claims from Blue Cross Blue Shield members per year from 2013 to 2017. For more information visit External Site.

BCBSA to launch Blue Distinction® Centers for Substance Use Treatment and Recovery

To find reliable support for Americans suffering from an opioid-use disorder, Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are collaborating with experts and industry leaders to assess the effectiveness of treatment options and improve access to quality treatment services.

According to a 2013 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services External Site, only 22 percent of treatment centers were accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and only 19 percent were accredited by the Joint Commission. More than half of treatment programs are not accredited by either, highlighting a major gap in ensuring quality treatment.

BCBSA will launch Blue Distinction Centers for Substance Use Treatment and Recovery to ensure members have access to the best clinical thinking and evidenced-based approaches in dealing with the long-term issues associated with opioid use disorder. In addition, BCBSA is establishing a national hotline to connect those in need with treatment centers. The hotline will be available to anyone.

The Blue Distinction Centers for Substance Use Treatment and Recovery and the national hotline will be operational by January 2020.