New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Photo: Carmen Natale/ALM)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation that will expand insurance coverage for drug and alcohol addiction treatment, and curtail prescriptions for opioids.

Christie, who signed the legislation Wednesday, has declared that in his last year in office, he will focus on increasing treatment opportunities for addicts and reducing the widespread abuse of painkillers.

The governor, a Republican, and the Democratic-led Legislature, often are at loggerheads over public policy issues, but came to an agreement over drug and alcohol treatment services.

The bill, S3, sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, requires health insurance carriers to cover inpatient treatment and sets a limit on the amount of painkillers doctors can prescribe.

The bipartisan bill, which passed both houses of the Legislature without opposition, goes into effect in 90 days.

The law requires that those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and who have access to health insurance have inpatient coverage made available to them.

The new law also sets strict limits on prescriptions for pain medication after five days.

Christie, in a statement, said only that Massachusetts and New York have enacted similar legislation. Both state laws reduced prescription limits for opioids to seven days.

The law does not address addiction treatment issues faced by those without insurance coverage.

“No one bill can possibly address all of the issues that we are faced with as we continue to fight against this public health crisis in New Jersey. But this law will go a long way in addressing the abuse and diversion of prescription painkillers, and it will ensure that many of those who need help can get access to it immediately without delays due to insurance coverage limitations,” said Vitale.

The bill had been met with opposition from the Medical Society of New Jersey, the lobbying group representing doctors in the state.

“Statutory medication limits decrease the quality of care and life for pain patients. The Medical Society of New Jersey opposes such intrusions into the practice of medicine, especially if they do not take into account individual patient circumstances, like medication tolerance or access to insurance, transportation or alternative treatments,” said Mishael Azam, the society’s chief operating officer and senior manager, in a statement issued during committee hearings earlier this year.

“This [proposal] is especially cruel given that over 70 percent of abuse comes from diversion, not from patient misuse. Education on safe storage and disposal will address abuse much more efficiently than pill limits. While working to stop abuse, we must remain mindful of the legitimate uses of medication and ensure practitioners are empowered to meet their patient’s health care needs.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation that will expand insurance coverage for drug and alcohol addiction treatment, and curtail prescriptions for opioids.

Christie, who signed the legislation Wednesday, has declared that in his last year in office, he will focus on increasing treatment opportunities for addicts and reducing the widespread abuse of painkillers.

The governor, a Republican, and the Democratic-led Legislature, often are at loggerheads over public policy issues, but came to an agreement over drug and alcohol treatment services.

The bill, S3, sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, requires health insurance carriers to cover inpatient treatment and sets a limit on the amount of painkillers doctors can prescribe.

The bipartisan bill, which passed both houses of the Legislature without opposition, goes into effect in 90 days.

The law requires that those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and who have access to health insurance have inpatient coverage made available to them.

The new law also sets strict limits on prescriptions for pain medication after five days.

Christie, in a statement, said only that Massachusetts and New York have enacted similar legislation. Both state laws reduced prescription limits for opioids to seven days.

The law does not address addiction treatment issues faced by those without insurance coverage.

“No one bill can possibly address all of the issues that we are faced with as we continue to fight against this public health crisis in New Jersey. But this law will go a long way in addressing the abuse and diversion of prescription painkillers, and it will ensure that many of those who need help can get access to it immediately without delays due to insurance coverage limitations,” said Vitale.

The bill had been met with opposition from the Medical Society of New Jersey, the lobbying group representing doctors in the state.

“Statutory medication limits decrease the quality of care and life for pain patients. The Medical Society of New Jersey opposes such intrusions into the practice of medicine, especially if they do not take into account individual patient circumstances, like medication tolerance or access to insurance, transportation or alternative treatments,” said Mishael Azam, the society’s chief operating officer and senior manager, in a statement issued during committee hearings earlier this year.

“This [proposal] is especially cruel given that over 70 percent of abuse comes from diversion, not from patient misuse. Education on safe storage and disposal will address abuse much more efficiently than pill limits. While working to stop abuse, we must remain mindful of the legitimate uses of medication and ensure practitioners are empowered to meet their patient’s health care needs.”