Changes in Buprenorphine Treatment After Medicaid Expansion

Mark Olfson, Victoria Shu Zhang, Marissa King, Ramin Mojtabai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: The authors examined changes in buprenorphine treatment following Medicaid expansion, including the contribution of Medicaid-financed prescriptions. METHODS: Buprenorphine pharmacy claims for patients were identified in the 2012-2018 IQVIA Longitudinal Prescription Data (LRx) data set, including 79.8% of U.S. retail prescriptions in 2012, increasing to 92.0% in 2018. A cohort analysis was used to assess the mean number of patients in a yearly quarter filling one or more buprenorphine prescriptions during preexpansion (2012-2013) and postexpansion (2014-2018) periods in expansion and nonexpansion states. Interrupted time-series analysis estimated associations of Medicaid expansion period with change in Medicaid-financed treatment. Separate analyses evaluated changes in duration and dose of new treatment episodes focused on mean quarterly number of patients treated with buprenorphine and proportions of new treatment episodes ≥180 days long and with ≥16 mg/day. RESULTS: Between preexpansion and postexpansion, the mean quarterly number of patients taking buprenorphine increased by 93,300 in expansion states and by 84,960 in nonexpansion states. Corresponding changes for Medicaid-financed patients were 28,760 and 4,050, respectively. The fastest growth in Medicaid-financed treatment occurred among patients ages 25-44. Among new Medicaid-financed treatment episodes, little change was found in the proportion reaching the 180-day threshold, and declines were observed in the proportion receiving ≥16 mg/day. CONCLUSIONS: The findings are consistent with previous research indicating that Medicaid expansion has increased Medicaid-financed buprenorphine treatment. However, because of offsetting changes in other payment groups, the overall increase in expansion states was similar to the increase in nonexpansion states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-640
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatric services (Washington, D.C.)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Buprenorphine
  • Drug abuse
  • Health care reform
  • Opioid use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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