Medicaid expansion not linked to higher opioid misuse, study suggests

While some policymakers claim Medicaid expansion is partially to blame for the nation's opioid crisis, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia found Medicaid expansion was not linked to increased opioid misuse, according to a Journal of General Internal Medicine study published in September.

The study, conducted by senior fellows with the Penn Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, analyzed drug overdose death trends in Arizona, Maine and New York, according to the university's Health Policy$ense publication. These states expanded Medicaid eligibility in the early 2000s, prior to the ACA.

"Assessing the relationship between coverage expansion and overdose deaths is challenging in the midst of a national crisis. Drug overdose mortality rates were already increasing prior to implementation of ACA Medicaid expansions in 2014," according to Health Policy$ense, which cites the CDC's declaration of prescription opioid overdoses as an epidemic in 2011. "For this reason, [the researchers] chose to look at earlier expansions, which took place on the eve of the national epidemic."

Among their findings, which consider the time before the ACA went into effect, researchers said nonexpansion states saw a sharper increase in drug overdose death rates than the three states that had expanded Medicaid coverage — even among neighboring nonexpansion states. This trend did not change when the researchers adjusted for variables like minimum wage, welfare and food stamp programs, according to the research.

For the full Health Policy$ense report, click here.

To view the full study, click here.

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