Obtaining medication-assisted treatment for a substance abuse disorder is no longer a matter of equity.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, in December, signed a bill into law sponsored by state Sen. Pete Harckham, chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal that ensures people who have substance abuse disorders can immediately access medicine that will manage their withdrawal symptoms, regardless of the kind of insurance they carry.

One key medicine at issue is buprenorphine; there are about five different medications available that include buprenorphine, but not all the formulas work the same on everyone. 

People who have private insurance have been able to access whichever buprenorphine formula works best for them without prior authorization since 2019; people on Medicaid could not, until now. Harckham calls the bill “a massive step forward for equity and for saving lives."

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo had vetoed the bill in the past, citing its high cost. Harckham said while the new law will have high upfront costs of about $20 million, the program could save 500 lives in the first year and contribute to $50 million in savings.