Angus King, Susan Collins want doctors to be able to treat more addicts

Good morning and welcome. Maine’s U.S. senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, are teaming up again, this time on a topic that’s been the subject of headlines recently in Maine: opioid drug addiction. 

Our senators and a group of their colleagues have written to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to urge increased access to treatments for prescription pain addiction. Specifically, they advocated for medication-assisted therapy, which involve drugs like methadone, naloxone and buprenorphine. These drugs stave off addicts’ craving for drugs without providing the “high.” From the letter: 

“Numerous studies have shown that medication-assisted therapy (MAT) is cost effective, reduces drug use, disease rates, overdose risk and criminal activity among opioid addicted persons. … Despite the effectiveness of MAT as one of the tools available to treat opioid addiction, there is significant under-treatment with this proven therapy. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, of the 2.5 million Americans 12 years of age or older who abused or were dependent on opioids in 2012, fewer than one million received MAT.” 

Currently, the law limits the number of addicts a physician can treat to 30 in the first year and 100 thereafter. Collins and King are asking Burwell to lift the cap. 

Fighting drug abuse has also come into focus in Maine in recent weeks, with a drug abuse summit planned for later this month by Gov. Paul LePage. While LePage is advocating for more resources to be spent on the law enforcement side of the equation, others argue that the balance should shift more toward treatment and prevention, including the use of medications to help wean addicts away from drugs. This comes as law enforcement agencies in Maine and across the northeastern United States report that opioids like heroin are increasing in popularity. 

At least the conversation about how to stop it is happening on multiple levels. — Christopher Cousins 

New law requires more coverage for Uber drivers

A new law went into effect earlier this summer that requires drivers in transportation networks such as Uber to carry more insurance. The Transportation Network Company Insurance Act (LD 1379) received near-unanimous support in the Legislature this year and became law on June 30.

Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa said in a written statement that private auto insurance does not cover commercial activities.

The new law requires $1 million in bodily injury, death and property damage coverage “while engaged in a prearranged ride; a minimum of $50,000 coverage per person and $100,000 per incident for bodily injury and death and $25,000 for property damage while a driver is logged into the transportation network company’s digital network but there is no passenger in the car; and at least $2,000 medical payments coverage at all times.

These coverages can be provided by private insurance policies, the transportation network’s policy or a mixture of both. In addition to exposure to financial risk, failure to comply with the law could result in a loan default if the vehicle being used is under financing.

Reading list

Gaze at the sky tonight

As reported by the BDN’s Michael Kennedy, the planet Earth is passing into a trail of dust caused by the comet Swift-Tuttle. That means — if the clouds lift today — that we’re in for quite a meteor shower this evening and into early tomorrow morning.

I remember my parents waking me one night in my childhood to see waves of northern lights above our home in western Maine. It’s one of the best memories of my childhood and the only time I’ve seen the aurora borealis in such vivid detail.

If there’s a good show tonight, I will be waking my sons in the middle of the night in hopes of creating a memory they’ll cherish forever. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.