Fewer opioids prescribed since Medicaid expansion started

LOUISIANA (Press Release) - New data from the Louisiana Department of Health and the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy show there are fewer opioids being prescribed since Medicaid expansion began in July 2016.

“Medicaid expansion is not only helping people get the care they need, it is ensuring they get the proper medications when they are ill,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “When it comes to the prescribing of opioids, it is good news to see those who need the medications are getting them, and that the controls we’ve put in place to limit these medications are working.”

According to the Board of Pharmacy which administers the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, both the total number of opioid prescriptions and the total number of opioid pills have decreased from the year before Medicaid expansion to the year afterwards, as shown here:

  • The number of prescriptions decreased by 109,675, a 2.08 percent reduction.
  • The total number of pills prescribed decreased by more than 10 million doses, a three percent reduction.

The information is consistent with preliminary data from the Department of Health that shows first-time opioid users being prescribed short-acting opioids in similar reductions in the State’s Medicaid program over two separate time periods:

  • Since July 2016, the first month of Medicaid expansion to August 2017, there has been a 40.1 percent decrease in the amount of opioids dispensed for average claims.
  • Since January 2017 – Since Medicaid policy changes were first implemented in January 2017, the number of pills per prescription for Medicaid patients have decreased by more than 25 percent.

Health officials partly attribute these reductions to policy changes made by the Legislature and by the Medicaid program. These changes are summarized here:

2017 Regular Session Legislation

  • House Bill 192 limited first-time prescriptions of opioids for acute pain to a seven-day supply, with exceptions when medically appropriate.
  • House Bill 490 created a 13-member advisory council on opioid abuse prevention and education.
  • Senate Bill 55 strengthened the Prescription Monitoring Program.
  • Senate Bill 96 broadened the Prescription Monitoring Program to include counselors, parole officers, medical examiners and coroners.

Medicaid Policy Changes

  • January 2017: 15-day prescription limit for patients in traditional Medicaid
  • March 2017: 15-day prescription limit for patients in Medicaid managed care
  • July 2017: Limited doses of Morphine Equivalent Dosing to 120 mg per day or a 7-day supply, whichever is less, for all Medicaid patients

Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health said addressing the opioid epidemic and getting people access to care are her goals, and Medicaid expansion is crucial to success.

“Medicaid expansion has helped thousands of people get the life-saving care they need. In fact, we’ve seen more than 13,000 more people get substance abuse treatment through the expansion in the first year alone,” Gee said. “Because of new laws and policies, and better access to the right care, physicians are prescribing fewer total opioids and fewer opioids per patient.”

 


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