Tennessee's new rules on prescribing opioids are resulting in substantial cash savings for the state. TennCare says it paid $15 million less last year because fewer painkiller prescriptions are being filled.
Essentially, the dollar signs show that new policies are working, says TennCare chief financial officer William Aaron.
"Because of our efforts to essentially control utilization of opioids, what we've seen is that the volume of opioids that are prescribed in the TennCare program has dropped significantly," Aaron said.
From 2017 to 2018, the number of painkiller prescriptions filled by the government insurance program dropped by more than half.
But beyond those rules, TennCare will even force some of its 1.3 million patients to use a single pharmacy if they're caught trying to fill the same prescription at multiple places.
"We have been very involved, having limits in place for a while now," TennCare director Gabe Roberts says. "And the Tennessee Together legislation was another opportunity to review our benefit limits, align them as much as we can with that and continue to put some more limits in place."
Still, opioids remain in heavy use among TennCare beneficiaries. Even with the big drop, there were 400,000 prescriptions for powerful pain medication last year.