Impact of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction on Medicaid Expenditures and Health Services Utilization Rates in Vermont

Mary Kate Mohlman, Beth Tanzman, Karl Finison, Melanie Pinette, Craig Jones
Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 2016, 67: 9-14
In the face of increasing rates of overdose deaths, escalating health care costs, and the tremendous social costs of opioid addiction, policy makers are asked to address the questions of whether and how to expand access to treatment services. In response to an upward trend in opioid abuse and adverse outcomes, Vermont is investing in statewide expansion of a medication-assisted therapy program delivered in a network of community practices and specialized treatment centers (Hub & Spoke Program). This study was conducted to test the rationale for these investments and to establish a pre-Hub & Spoke baseline for evaluating the additive impact of the program. Using a serial cross-sectional design from 2008 to 2013 to evaluate medical claims for Vermont Medicaid beneficiaries with opioid dependence or addiction (6158 in the intervention group, 2494 in the control group), this study assesses the treatment and medical service expenditures for those receiving medication-assisted treatment compared to those receiving substance abuse treatment without medication. Results suggest that medication-assisted therapy is associated with reduced general health care expenditures and utilization, such as inpatient hospital admissions and outpatient emergency department visits, for Medicaid beneficiaries with opioid addiction. For state Medicaid leaders facing similar decisions on approaches to opioid addiction, these results provide early support for expanding medication-assisted treatment services rather than relying only on psychosocial, abstinence, or detoxification interventions.

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