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U.S. healthcare law makes it easier for opioid-addicted patients to go back to the hospital for more


(NaturalNews) The ongoing "war on drugs," combined with changes in the way opioids are prescribed and tracked, was supposed to arrest a growing addiction to those medications among Americans. But a new report concludes that those rule changes may actually be having the opposite effect.

The report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) finds that 1-in-20 Americans abused prescription painkillers last year. That's important, because regulatory changes may actually be exacerbating the opioid epidemic, The Anti-Media reported.

In 2015, some 119 million Americans aged 12 and older used prescription psychotherapeutic medications, a term used in the report to refer to "pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives." However, pain relievers were the most prescribed and used.

'Prescription drug use disorder'

To produce the report, SAMHSA researchers used that estimate in conjunction with 68,000 surveys. According to their findings, "all estimates (e.g. percentages and numbers) presented in the report are derived from NSDUH [National Survey on Drug Use and Health] survey data." The organization noted further that the use of prescription psychotherapeutic medications over the past year was "fairly common" in the U.S., with 44.5 percent of the population claiming in 2015 to have used them in the past.

In addition, researchers found that 1-in-14 Americans older than 11 "misused or abused the drugs," and that 2.7 million people – at least 1 percent of the adult population – have a "prescription drug use disorder."

The report appears to substantiate the fact that America has an opioid abuse problem. But it also makes light of an additional point that is not often discussed, The Anti-Media noted.

The SAMHSA researchers found that the vast majority of those who abused opioids and other psychotherapeutic drugs obtained them from family or friends. But the second-most common way raises some important issues; 36.4 percent of abusers got their medication from a doctor or stole them from a healthcare provider.

Some believe that changes to U.S. healthcare law have made it easier for patients addicted to opioids to go back to a hospital for more. Here's why.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is allocating $1.5 billion in Medicare payments as a reward to hospitals based on patient care satisfaction surveys. Some questions found in these surveys include: "During this hospital stay, how often did the hospital staff do everything they could to help you with your pain?" and "How often was your pain well controlled?"

'This policy is leading to ongoing opioid abuse'

Poor patient satisfaction surveys, in essence, are not only costing hospitals reimbursement dollars, but they may actually be fueling the opioid epidemic.

"The government is telling us we need to make sure a patient's pain is under control," Dr. Nick Sawyer, a health-policy fellow at the UC Davis Department of Emergency Medicine, said. "It's hard to make them happy without a narcotic. This policy is leading to ongoing opioid abuse."

And there is this: In a 2014 survey published in Patient Preference and Adherence, 48 percent of doctors said that they inappropriately prescribed painkillers because they feared a bad patient satisfaction survey result, Investors Business Daily reported.

The problem has become large enough that U.S. lawmakers are intervening. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is calling on the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers Obamacare, to look into whether there is a link between the surveys and the over-prescribing of opioids. Also, other senators have sponsored legislation to untie Medicare reimbursement from pain management survey results.

In the meantime, opioid abuse continues to rise, and it appears to be linked to patient satisfaction. A 2014 survey published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that patients who said they were "satisfied" with care received from doctors and physicians were more likely to spend on prescription medications, The Anti-Media reported. Also, those patients had higher mortality rates than those who said they were dissatisfied with their medical service.







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