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Does Aetna Require Prior Authorization for Suboxone?

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Does Aetna require prior authorization for a Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) prescription?

Aetna does not require prior authorization to get buprenorphine/naloxone prescribed to you. They once did, but in 2017, Aetna announced that it would stop requiring prior authorization for buprenorphine/naloxone (common brand names include Suboxone and Zubsolv) to treat opioid use disorder. This announcement was met with great relief by Aetna members with opioid addiction and by the providers who treat them. 

Prior authorization is a process by which the prescribing clinician has to submit paperwork to the health plan or insurance company requesting approval for the medication before the pharmacy can fill it. This can add several days to the wait to pick up a prescription. With many medications, this wait is a mere (but major) frustration, while with others it is physically hazardous. With buprenorphine/naloxone, a delay in receiving meds can lead to intense withdrawal symptoms and a higher risk of relapse (resumption of opioid use).

So Aetna will definitely not require prior authorization for my buprenorphine?

According to Aetna’s website, they don’t require prior authorization for members insured through an employer-based plan to get buprenorphine/naloxone. So if you have insurance through your job or your parent’s or spouse’s job, your clinician won’t have to request prior authorization.

However, if you have a plan through Aetna Medicare or Aetna Medicaid you may still need prior authorization. 

For all Aetna plans, there will probably be a limit on the quantity you can be prescribed. For example, on a search we ran, the quantity Aetna would cover for generic buprenorphine/naloxone tablets (8mg/2mg) was limited to three tablets per day without requiring prior authorization. There also may be restrictions on which brands of buprenorphine/naloxone you can get without prior authorization. Your plan may not cover Suboxone, but may cover Zubsolv or generics.

Is precertification the same as prior authorization?

Yes. Precertification, preauthorization, and prior approval all mean the same thing as prior authorization. These terms are used interchangeably.

How can I find out for certain if my Aetna plan covers my Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone)?

Health plans have lists of medications they include in their prescription drug benefits. These lists are called their formulary or drug list. You can check the formulary for your specific Aetna plan on the Aetna website. Choose your plan from the dropdown menu and then click “View Pharmacy Plan.” You can either view a PDF of the formulary or click through to a searchable list on which you can find the covered drug. There will be a key of codes and icons they use, so you can tell if there are quantity limits, if only generics are covered, if a drug requires pre-authorization, and more.

What if my Aetna plan DOES require prior authorization for the quantity or brand of buprenorphine I need?

Sometimes an individual needs medication in a quantity that exceeds those approved by Aetna without prior authorization. Or maybe they have a bad reaction to a particular brand of buprenorphine/naloxone but do well with a brand that is not covered. If this is the case for you, or if you have an Aetna Medicaid or Aetna Medicare plan, your provider may need to submit a request for prior authorization. If this happens:

  • make sure not to miss your provider appointments. If there is already a possible delay due to the need for prior authorization or precertification, you don’t want to add on any more wait time!
  • follow up with the pharmacy if you don’t hear from them by the date/time expected. You can also reach out to your provider. At Workit Health, you can connect with your care team via the in-app chat feature.
  • call the number on your insurance card if the need is urgent. If you talk to Aetna directly, you may be able to submit an urgent request for a faster decision. Note that this is not guaranteed!

Will any pharmacy fill my Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) prescription if I have Aetna?

Not necessarily. You will want to check with the pharmacy to be sure that they accept your Aetna plan and also have the medication you need. Pharmacies sometimes run out of certain meds. Some pharmacies are also very cautious about dispensing buprenorphine because they fear it will be diverted (sold or misused). So the pharmacy may have additional red tape for you to navigate, despite the fact that Aetna covers the medication.

Does Workit Health accept my Aetna plan for opioid use disorder treatment?

Workit Health accepts Aetna for our clinical programs for both opioid and alcohol use disorders in many states. Click here to use our insurance checker to find out if your plan is accepted, or call the number on the back of your insurance card.

Alaine Sepulveda is a content strategist in recovery from alcohol. She believes that engaging people and sharing stories with them allows us to spread knowledge, and to help others in the path to recovery. She holds an MA in Communication Studies from New Mexico State University.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. Workit Health, Inc. and its affiliated professional entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.

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