Ohio Auditor Warns Opioid Abuse Straining Safety Net

"Medicaid is the safety net for our most-needy Ohioans," Auditor Dave Yost said. "That safety net is being stretched thin by the thousands of people who have lost their jobs, their health insurance, and are in desperate need of care. As much as we've done in Ohio to curb this epidemic, more needs to be done."

A new report by the Ohio Auditor of State's office shows the number of Ohio Medicaid recipients with an opioid-related diagnosis (dependence, abuse, or overdose) climbed 430 percent between 2010 and 2016 and indicates the state is now providing assistance to a soaring number of Ohioans who are addicted to opioids. "Despite the tragic number of deaths associated with opioid abuse, and the widespread publicity surrounding this epidemic, we continue to see more and more people falling prey to this insidious addiction," Auditor Dave Yost said. "This epidemic would be worse but for the controls put in place by Gov. John Kasich's administration to reduce the dosage strength and prescription duration for Medicaid recipients."

Analysis in the report, "The Opioid Crisis: The impact on the Medicaid population is stretching the state's safety net," found that in 2015, Medicaid recipients filled prescriptions that were shorter in duration and lower in dosage than commercially insured individuals. About 39 percent of the privately insured population received long-term, low-dosage prescriptions, while virtually none of the Medicaid population received that type of prescription. It notes that, because addiction often leads to job loss and the loss of insurance, many with addictions fall to Medicaid for opioid addiction treatment. The report says there has been a 639 percent increase in the use of medication-assisted treatment during the six-year period.

The number of unique individuals on Medicaid receiving medication-assisted treatment for addiction jumped from about 6,500 in 2010 to nearly 48,000 in 2016. Forty-five percent more Medicaid recipients received medication-assisted treatment within six months of a dependence/abuse/overdose diagnosis in 2016 than in 2010. In 2010, the state's cost of treating opioid addiction through medication-assisted therapies was more than $13 million, but it jumped to $110 million by 2016.

"Medicaid is the safety net for our most-needy Ohioans," Yost said. "That safety net is being stretched thin by the thousands of people who have lost their jobs, their health insurance, and are in desperate need of care. As much as we've done in Ohio to curb this epidemic, more needs to be done."

The report shows that counties in the south-central section of Ohio continued to experience the highest rates of opioid-related diagnoses in the state. In 2010, the highest county rate was 25 Medicaid recipients per 1,000, but by 2013, the number climbed to 34 per 1,000, and by 2016, to 62 per 1,000.

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