CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is urging a large malpractice insurance company to discount premiums for doctors who further their education in treating pain with non-opioid alternatives.

The proposal is a first of its kind and is aimed at reducing the state’s number of drug overdose deaths.

Morrisey outlined his suggestion with a letter to West Virginia Mutual Insurance Company.

Morrisey contends such a strategy would better equip the state’s doctors in prescribing opioid painkillers and non-opioid alternatives.

“Properly prescribing opioids and utilizing non-opioid alternatives is crucial in our fight against this terrible epidemic,” Morrisey said. “By offering an appropriate, financial incentive, I believe we will dramatically expand best practices within the medical community and save countless lives.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued guidelines for prescribing opiod painkillers. It now recommends that non-opiod alternatives and it stresses education as to the risks of opiods in managing chronic pain.

If, after that, opioids still prove necessary, the guidelines suggest prescribing the lowest effective dosage.

West Virginia Mutual currently incentivizes better patient care with a 2-percent premium reduction for physicians who complete a pain management seminar.

Morrisey, who has made tackling drug abuse a top priority, applauds the pain management discount and believes his proposal represents another voluntary step everyone can take toward achieving the ultimate goal – fewer drug overdose deaths.

Morrisey’s letter specifically suggests additional discounts for physicians who demonstrate best practices in several key areas, such as knowing the risks of opioid treatment, treating patients with the appropriate caution and providing non-opioid alternatives when possible.

Such an incentive would not only curb the drug epidemic, but it also would protect doctors from potential medical malpractice lawsuits in light of a recent state Supreme Court of Appeals opinion, which potentially may hold physicians liable for their patients’ addictions.

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