A study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that diagnosis and treatment for opioid use disorder improved in West Virginia in that state’s Medicaid expansion program under the Affordable Care Act. The study appears in the April issue of Health Affairs.
West Virginia is at the epicenter of the opioid epidemic. For their study, the researchers analyzed claims data for 2014–16 to examine trends in treatment for opioid use disorder among people enrolled in the West Virginia Medicaid expansion program. By early 2016 there were 180,500 newly eligible people enrolled in the West Virginia Medicaid expansion, compared to the pre-ACA monthly Medicaid average of 354,444.
The study found that the number of opioid use disorder diagnoses nearly tripled in the three-year period among Medicaid expansion enrollees. The share of diagnosed people filling prescriptions for buprenorphine, a drug used to manage the symptoms of opioid addiction, increased from a ratio of one-third in early in 2014 to more than 74 percent by late 2016. The study also found that most people taking buprenorphine received counseling and drug testing during the study period.
The paper’s lead authors are Dr. Brendan Saloner, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management, and Dr. Colleen Barry, Fred and Julie Soper Professor and Chair of the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management.Friday Letter Submission