Buprenorphine Prescriptions for Opioid Use Disorder Rise With Medicaid Expansion

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Hefei Wen, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Health Management & Policy University of Kentucky College of Public Health

Dr.Hefei Wen

Hefei Wen, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Health Management & Policy
University of Kentucky College of Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Buprenorphine has been proven effective in treating opioid use disorder. However, the high cost of buprenorphine and the limited prescribing capacity may restrict access to this effective medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder.

We found a 70% increase in Medicaid-covered buprenorphine prescriptions and a 50% increase in buprenorphine spending associated with the implementation of Medicaid expansions in 26 states during 2014. Physician prescribing capacity was also associated with increased buprenorphine prescriptions and spending.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Health insurance expansion has the potential to reduce the financial barriers to buprenorphine utilization and improve access to MAT. Active physician participation in the provision of buprenorphine is needed for ensuring that health insurance coverage achieves its full potential in improving treatment access.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Previously a qualified physician was only allowed to provide buprenorphine for up to 100 patients at a time. The Department of Health and Human Services recently raised the patient limit from 100 to 275, effective on August 8, 2016. Future research is needed to examine the capacity of health insurance and health care system to absorb the additional needs for MAT and the implications for the ongoing opioid epidemic.

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Hefei Wen, Jason M. Hockenberry, Tyrone F. Borders, Benjamin G. Druss. Impact of Medicaid Expansion on Medicaid-covered Utilization of Buprenorphine for Opioid Use Disorder Treatment. Medical Care, 2017; 55 (4): 336 DOI: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000703

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