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COVID-19 impacts on opioid abuse

Thursday, July 1, 2021 | Posted in GEHA Connection Dental Network Provider Newsletter

COVID-19 impacts on opioid abuse

The COVID-19 pandemic has – understandably – pushed other public health issues to the background. But that does not mean they have gone away.

Last year, while the nation was sheltering in place and practicing social distancing, emergency departments, or EDs, showed a significant increase of visits related to opioid overdoses. This finding was reported in a JAMA Psychiatry study of nearly 190 million EDs comparing the months of March to October 2020 against the same period the previous year.

Compounding this problem is information from a 2019 JAMA study that compared the prescriptive habits of United States and United Kingdom dentists. The study found U.S. dentists were 37 times more likely to prescribe opioids than their counterparts across the pond. This includes a particularly dangerous opioid such as oxycodone, which is frequently prescribed in the U.S. but rarely prescribed in the U.K.

The findings from both studies emphasize the importance of safe prescribing practices.

Kristin M. Holland, PhD. “Mental Health, Overdose, and Violence Outcomes and the COVID-19 Pandemic.” JAMA Psychiatry, JAMA Network, 3 Feb. 2021,

Katie J. Suda, PharmD. “Comparison of Opioid Prescribing by Dentists in the United States and England.” JAMA Network Open, JAMA Network, 24 May 2019,

Provider payment options

GEHA has revised the virtual card payments as an alternative option to providers that are currently receiving paper check reimbursements. Fax notifications for virtual card payments are sent directly to your office if you have a HIPAA certified fax number on file. If not, your virtual card is mailed. Each notification contains a virtual credit card with a number unique to that payment transaction including an instruction page for processing.

Processing virtual card payments is similar to how you currently enter patient credit card payments.

  • When receiving and processing the virtual card, enter the payment information for the full amount of the card’s value prior to the expiration date on the card.
  • To receive your virtual card directly to your office via secure fax rather than from the USPS, you can reach out to ECHO Health at 888.680.4079 to provide your office’s secure fax number.
  • Normal transaction fees apply when processing virtual cards based on your merchant acquirer relationship.

To continue to receive paper checks and paper explanation of payments (EOP), you must opt out of the virtual card services after your initial virtual card payment is received, by contacting ECHO Health at 888.680.4079. After opting out, you will receive paper checks for approximately one year, then you will be put back into the virtual card program. If you’d like to continue to receive paper checks after the year, you will need to contact ECHO Health to opt out of the virtual card program again.

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)

If you are not interested in virtual card payments or paper checks but you are interested in receiving payment via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) under GEHA Payer ID 44054, setting up EFT is a fast and easy process. GEHA EFT enrollment requires your provider tax ID plus your GEHA provider ID. Please call GEHA at 800.821.6136 or go to to get your GEHA provider ID. To sign up for reimbursements through EFT, visit

EFT currently enrolled providers will continue to receive electronic payments (EFT) as you do today from GEHA. No action is required.

2021 CDT codes

The American Dental Association CDT 2021 and Coding Companion Kit is available as a great resource for your office. This year’s kit includes the latest additions and changes. Staying up to date on CDT codes allows your team to spend more time with patients rather than paperwork. Download this resource to stay up to date on CDT code changes:

This can help your team efficiently submit correct claims which results in accurate, timely reimbursement for the great care you provide to your patients.

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