BlueCross Reports 23.9 Percent of Members Fill an Opioid Prescription Annually in Tennessee

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BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee reports that nearly 24 percent of its commercially insured members in Tennessee filled at least one opioid prescription in 2015, compared to 21 percent nationally, according to a new study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

Data also show 5.5 percent of Tennessee members were on a long-duration opioid regimen in 2015, compared to 3.8 percent nationally, and 32 percent of members with opioid use disorder received medication-assisted therapy in 2016, compared to 37 percent nationally. There are 16.5 per 1,000 members who are diagnosed with opioid use disorder in Tennessee, compared to 8.3 nationally.

The report, "America's Opioid Epidemic and Its Effect on the Nation's Commercially Insured Population," represents a comprehensive study of national medical claims from Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) members using opioid painkillers, as well as those diagnosed with opioid use disorder over a seven-year period.*


The study also finds that:

  • Opioid use disorder diagnoses nationally among BCBS commercially insured members spiked 493 percent from 2010 through 2016, according to BCBSA.
  • Among those 45 and older, women have a higher rate of opioid use disorder than do men. Among people younger than 45, men have higher rates of opioid use disorder than women. Women fill more opioid prescriptions than males across all age groups.
  • Long-duration prescription opioid use and opioid use disorder overlap by region, with the highest rates in the South and the Appalachian Region.
  • The 65 percent rate of increase in the use of medication-assisted treatments lags behind the 492 percent rate of increase in opioid use disorder diagnoses from 2010 through 2016.
  • States that have experienced the greatest growth in the use of medication-assisted treatments are not necessarily the areas most impacted by opioid use disorders. High rates of treatment relative to opioid use disorder occur in New England, and lower rates occur in the South and parts of the Midwest.

"Opioid abuse and misuse is one of the most pressing public health concerns in our state, and we feel a responsibility to do our part to address this issue," said Dr. Andrea Willis, chief medical officer of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.


BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has taken action against the escalating opioid crisis on several fronts. Efforts include implementing medical policy changes to require more stringent prior authorization limits and prescription quantity limits, and increasing communication with providers about prescribing pattern issues.

The company's Health Foundation invested $1.3 million in community outreach, including expanding the Coffee County Anti-Drug Coalition's Count It! Lock It! Drop It! program to all 95 Tennessee counties. In addition to placing secure drug drop boxes in each county, efforts have included the hosting of drug take-back events, funding first-responder training and opioid overdose antidote kits for law enforcement, and a statewide public awareness campaign.

The BCBS Health IndexSM identifies substance use disorder as the fifth most impactful condition affecting the health of commercially insured members in the U.S.

This is the thirteenth study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield: The Health of America Report® series, a collaboration between BCBSA and Blue Health Intelligence, which uses a market-leading claims database to uncover key trends and insights into health care affordability and access to care.

For more information, visit

*Members diagnosed with cancer or who were undergoing palliative or hospice care were excluded from this analysis.

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