Urine tests cost Colorado Medicaid $1M per month in 2016

Colorado's Medicaid program spent more than $1 million a month last year on urine drug tests, according to an investigation from NBC affiliate KUSA.

Here are six things to know.

1. Last year, Colorado Medicaid paid more than $16 million for urine tests, according to KUSA's analysis of data from the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

2. In December 2014, the state's Medicaid program spent $54,857 to cover patients' urine drug tests, compared to $1.4 million spent in December 2016.

3. The average number of urine tests conducted per patient also increased from 1.45 in December 2014 to 8.48 for the same month two years later, according to the report.

4. When KUSA asked the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing about their heightened urine test expenditures, CMO Judy Zerzan, MD, told the news agency: "We had looked into this a couple of years ago when other states were having this problem, but we hadn’t refreshed it until you brought it to our attention."

5. Some lawmakers and health experts believe the increasing price and amount of urine tests represent laboratories attempt to boost profits, according to the report.

"There's just no other way to explain the numbers when it comes to urine drug testing," California attorney Harry Nelson, an expert on value of urine screening, told KUSA.

6. KUSA said drug labs justified the urine tests as a crucial tool to identify individuals with addiction issues and fight the national opioid epidemic.

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