Opioid overdoses killed more than 1,300 older Americans in 2016, but Medicare doesn’t cover the oldest proven treatment for opioid addiction: methadone.
A White House commission, the nation’s governors and addiction experts have called for Medicare to start paying for treatment in methadone clinics. Congress is considering legislation.
Methadone is the oldest and most effective of approved medications used to treat opioid addiction. It eases cravings without an intense high, allowing patients to work with counselors to rebuild their lives.
The Medicare drug program for the elderly covers methadone, but only when prescribed for pain. Methadone doesn’t meet the requirements of the “Part D” drug program because it can’t be dispensed in a retail pharmacy because of a decades-long tradition of tight government controls around methadone.