Medicaid-covered prescriptions for opioid addiction and overdoses surge by 136% in 5 years

Brian Zimmerman -

Medicaid spending on medications to treat opioid use disorder and opioid overdoses increased from $394 million in 2011 to $928 million in 2016, according to new research from the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Urban Institute.

To assess the effect of America's ongoing opioid epidemic on Medicaid spending, researchers analyzed CMS data on Medicaid prescriptions and spending for the anti-addiction medications buprenorphine and naltrexone, and the opioid overdose antidote naloxone.

The rise in spending marks a 136 percent increase over the five-year period, which amounts to an annual average increase of 19 percent. However, spending rose at a more accelerated rate in later years with a 30 percent rise occurring between 2015 and 2016. Between 2011 and 2016, states like California, Colorado, Ohio, Nevada, Washington and West Virginia experienced a spending increase of more than 400 percent.

The report's state-by-state breakdowns highlight the states that would struggle the most to address the opioid crisis if Medicaid cuts proposed under the Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act took effect.

Researchers acknowledged the study contains limitations, as spending for methadone — a long-standing treatment for opioid use disorder — was not assessed. Also, spending data for naltrexone represented treatment uses for both alcoholism and opioid use disorder.

To download the study, click here.

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