Surgeon General Jerome Adams has said knowing how to use naloxone can save lives. The drug can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Such overdoses killed more than 42,000 people in 2016.
But having a naloxone prescription could make it harder to get life insurance. An insurer denied coverage for a nurse who had a prescription for Narcan, a naloxone brand, WBUR reported. Health care practitioners and others who come into contact with people at risk of overdoses carry nalaxone to save lives.
Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, in a letter to the presidents of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and American Council of Life Insurers, called the report "disturbing."
"I am concerned that if good Samaritans are denied insurance coverage because they carry naloxone to promote public health and safety, this will have a chilling effect on efforts to make naloxone widely available and accessible, and will ultimately cost lives," Markey said.
Why people might get denied
Life insurance companies check all the medication prescribed to applicants over the past five to seven years as part of the underwriting process. Laws for accessing naloxone vary by state. Some require a prescription from a doctor. Others allow pharmacists to distribute the drug without a prescription.
In any case, if an underwriter turns up a naloxone prescription, it can be a sign that the applicant might be undergoing treatment for addiction, rather than carrying the drug to treat others. People who have prescriptions for drugs like suboxone, which treat opioid dependence, often get declined for life insurance immediately, said Robin Shrestha, a licensed life insurance agent at Policygenius. People going through rehabilitation often have to wait at least five years until they're able to apply.
How to get coverage with a naloxone prescription
If you carry naloxone to treat others, you can still get life insurance. Whether a doctor prescribes naloxone directly or your state has a standing prescription order allowing people to get naloxone, there should be documentation that you can give to the life insurance company, Shrestha said. The documentation should show that you're not undergoing treatment for opioid addiction yourself and that you're not a drug abuser. It may also help to get a letter from your doctor confirming this.
"So long as they have documentation, that will definitely work in their favor," Shrestha said.
However, Shrestha said, people who have chronic pain — for which opioids are commonly prescribed — may still have trouble with insurers.
Insurers may change their underwriting practices in the future as use of naloxone becomes more common. Shrestha brought up the example of Prep, a drug that prevents HIV infection. A few years ago, having a prescription would lead to a declined application, but as insurers have learned more about the drug, they've become more likely to approve users, Shrestha said. A licensed life insurance agent can help navigate you navigate the process.
In a statement, the American Council of Life Insurers suggested that people shop around, since different life insurers may evaluate people differently.
You can compare life insurance companies using Policygenius.
Image: Carles Rodrigo Monzo