Author Dave Chase Discusses How The US Opioid Crisis Is A Byproduct Of A Broken Health Care System

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Evie Fordham Politics and Health Care Reporter
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  • Dave Chase is the co-founder of Health Rosetta, which certifies health benefits consultants that help employers spend smart, not more, on health plans for employees
  • Chase’s recent book “The Opioid Crisis Wake-up Call” discusses how the opioid epidemic is a byproduct of the U.S. health care model
  • A combination of 12 factors contributed to the opioid crisis, Chase wrote in his book

A combination of overstretched primary care and perverse incentives within the health care industry made the U.S. opioid epidemic a “self-inflicted wound,” the author of new book “The Opioid Crisis Wake-up Call: Health Care Is Stealing the American Dream. Here’s How We Take It Back” told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Author Dave Chase outlines the 12 major drivers of the opioid crisis in his book, which was published Sept. 4.

“Unlike other great public health crises like polio and HIV, this is a self-inflicted wound,” Chase told TheDCNF. “It entirely came from the health care system. You could argue, as I do in my book, that the primary care crisis created fertile ground.”

His book is timely in light of the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 that passed the Senate on Sept. 17 but has not made it to the president’s desk yet.

“One of the twelve major drivers is this quick fix mindset,” Chase told TheDCNF. “The fact is, advertising works. The average American spends 16 times more watching pharma ads than they do with their primary care doctor. Guess who wins in that battle?”

The pharmaceutical industry often wants patients to view pills, including opioid painkillers, as magic fixes, Chase told TheDCNF.

“Despite there being no evidence opioids are the most effective treatment for things like lower back pain, people come in saying they need a pill,” Chase told TheDCNF. “In reality, you’re throwing chemicals at a mechanical problem in most instances.”

A shortage of primary care practitioners means clinicians are seeing more patients for shorter amounts of time — and overwhelmed primary care practitioners may prescribe opioids rather than go through other options for patients who are in pain.

“There’s actually evidence you should treat pain with physical therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy,” Chase told TheDCNF. “But there’s infinite margin in drugs, not in physical therapy.”

Chase also points out that most U.S. adults obtain health care through their employers, who have handed control of their employees’ health insurance to benefits consultants. These consultants often have additional allegiances to insurance carriers and pharmacy benefit managers. Because of this, employers can “unwitting enablers” of the opioid epidemic that kills more than 115 Americans a day, Chase told TheDCNF.

“In reality, it’s basically two types of employers,” Chase said. “Ones who know they have a problem with opioids, and another that has a problem but doesn’t know.”

Chase advocates for out-of-the-box thinking to solve the opioid crisis. For example, if doctors followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when prescribing opioids, fewer people would be dependent, Chase said. But some doctors blatantly disregard CDC guidelines and face little threat of penalties.

“The government itself is a gargantuan employer and employer-based health care system in this country,” Chase said. “You could run an algorithm to identify doctors, prescribers and nurse practitioners who aren’t following CDC guidelines and remove them from the network. … The nice thing is this keeps federal workers out of harm’s way and avoids addiction and wasting money.” (RELATED: Hospitals’ Secret Contracts With Insurers Are Keeping Health Care Expensive: Report)

Chase is the co-founder of alternative health care organization Health Rosetta that connects business with health plan benefits consultants it certifies. Health Rosetta’s consultants help businesses save money because they’re incentivized to help employers spend smart, not more, Chase told TheDCNF.

He is also the author of the “CEO’s Guide to Restoring the American Dream” about how employers can cut costs and improve care when providing health benefits for workers.

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

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