Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Have Covered Alternative Therapies To Reduce Opioid Use

Teva Pharmaceuticals has reached a settlement with the state of Oklahoma over its alleged role in fueling the opioid epidemic. In March, drugmaker Purdue Pharma agreed to a $270 million settlement.

Colorado lawmakers aimed to reduce opioid use by requiring insurance companies to cover various types of therapy visits as an alternative to drug prescriptions. 

The bill passed with strong support from Democrats and a Republican co-sponsor, but Gov. Jared Polis vetoed it Thursday.

Polis said the bill needed a better way to track costs and benefits, noting that insurance carries expected up to a $38 million cost that would be paid by customers’ premiums. Higher premiums, he said, would set back efforts to get more people covered. Earlier this year, Polis had said he would not sign any more insurance mandates this year, except those related to the pandemic.

Rep. Chris Kennedy, one of the Democratic sponsors, pushed back on the governor’s cost concerns.

“It’s incredibly important to me that this is about more than just the bottom line, much less just the short-term bottom line,” Kennedy said. “We have to have a serious conversation about the balance between improving access and lowering costs.”

The bill would have required health insurance plans to include six annual visits to physical therapists, acupuncturists, occupational therapists and chiropractors, all as an alternative to opioid prescriptions.

Polis said he supported other parts of the bill, including extensions of current rules that will expire next year. Lawmakers will still have time to extend those rules in the next lawmaking session.

The bill also would have made it easier for patients to get atypical opioids or non-opioid medication by banning insurance companies from implementing certain requirements.