Medicaid expansion linked to drop in opioid overdose deaths

States that expanded Medicaid had fewer opioid overdose deaths, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers examined data from 3,109 counties in 49 states and the District of Columbia from Jan. 1, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2017. By the end of the study period in 2017, 32 states and the District of Columbia had expanded Medicaid eligibility.

The researchers also used multiple cause-of-death files from the National Vital Statistics System to gather county-level opioid overdose death data. There were 383,091 opioid overdose deaths inU.S. counties during the study period.

They found that expanding Medicaid was associated with a 6 percent lower rate of total opioid overdose deaths compared with the death rate in states that did not expand Medicaid eligibility.

Additionally, counties that expanded Medicaid experienced:

• An 11 percent lower rate of death involving heroin.
• A 10 percent lower rate of death involving synthetic opioids (other than methadone, which increased in expansion states).



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