Impact of Medicaid Expansion on Access to Opioid Analgesic Medications and Medication-Assisted Treatment

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Abstract

Objectives

To assess the impact of the expansion of Medicaid eligibility in the United States on the opioid epidemic, as measured through increased access to opioid analgesic medications and medication-assisted treatment.

Methods

Using Medicaid enrollment and reimbursement data from 2011 to 2016 in all states, we evaluated prescribing patterns of opioids and the 3 Food and Drug Administration-approved medications used in treating opioid use disorders by using 2 statistical models. We used difference-in-differences and interrupted time series models to measure prescribing rates before and after state expansions.

Results

Although opioid prescribing per Medicaid enrollee increased overall, we observed no statistical difference between expansion and nonexpansion states. By contrast, per-enrollee rates of buprenorphine and naltrexone prescribing increased more than 200% after states expanded eligibility, while increasing by less than 50% in states that did not expand. Methadone prescribing decreased in all states in this period, with larger decreases in expansion states.

Conclusions

The Medicaid expansion enrolled a population no more likely to be prescribed opioids than the base Medicaid population while significantly increasing uptake of 2 drugs used in medication-assisted treatment.

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