- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

BEND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Health Authority is delaying the rollout of changes to the state’s Medicaid program that would allow patients to seek alternatives to painkillers and surgery to cope with back pain.

The new coverage policy was slated to take effect Jan. 1, but now will be delayed for an undetermined amount of time, The Bulletin reports (https://is.gd/ACeptM ).

Some fear the delay means there will be less support for doctors who are trying to prescribe prescription painkillers.

“It’s particularly unfortunate because of the push on opioids,” said Dr. Alison Little, medical director for PacificSource Community Solutions. “It’s a statewide initiative to get opioid use down. It would be a lot easier if we had these other therapies to direct people to.”

An Oregon Health Authority spokeswoman said the authority is looking for a way to let the entire package of guidelines on back pain take effect at the same time.

Under the new pack-pain coverage policy, Oregon Health Plan patients would be allotted as many as 30 visits a year for alternative therapies, including physical therapy, acupuncture or other treatments. Those alternative treatments can be more e

In 2014, the Oregon Health Plan spent $9.5 million on back pain-related surgery and $4.3 million on opioid prescriptions.

The delay comes as Central Oregon health care providers are preparing to begin limiting the daily dose of opiate drugs they prescribe. Starting in January, all OHP patients will be limited to the equivalent of 120 milligrams of morphine.

Officials say the delay ties into the fact that OHA is adjusting rates for coordinated care organizations.

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Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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