Bottles of the generic prescription pain medication buprenorphine, an alternative to methadone to help addicts recovering from heroin use. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Oct. 16 front-page article “An industry’s answer to deadly opioid addiction: More pills” did not address an even bigger question: Why will insurance companies pay for medications to treat the side effects of opioid use disorders — and the opioids themselves — but not the medications that treat people who become addicted?

Treatment that uses three Food and Drug Administration-approved medications — methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone — is effective, helping hundreds of thousands of people recover from opioid use disorders. Yet many insurance plans sold on state insurance exchanges and offered by employers don’t cover such treatment. 

I have counseled many individuals with opioid use disorders who purchased insurance for the primary purpose of covering their medication-assisted treatment, only to learn that their plan didn’t pay for it or created significant barriers to obtaining it.

The federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which was signed into law in 2008, was designed to render this insurance exclusion unlawful. Robust enforcement of the Parity Act would save precious lives and billions of dollars spent on the tragic consequences of untreated addiction.

Ellen M. Weber, Washington

The writer is vice president for
health initiatives at the Legal Action Center.