Impact of High Deductible Health Plans on Continuous Buprenorphine Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, Cameron J. Schilling, Alisa B. Busch, Elizabeth A. Stuart, Haiden A. Huskamp, Mark K. Meiselbach, Colleen L. Barry, Matthew D. Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Long-term, continuous treatment with medication like buprenorphine is the gold standard for opioid use disorder (OUD). As high deductible health plans (HDHPs) become more prevalent in the commercial insurance market, they may pose financial barriers to people with OUD. Objective: To estimate the impact of HDHPs on continuity of buprenorphine treatment, concurrent visits for counseling/psychotherapy and OUD-related evaluation and management, and out-of-pocket spending. Design: Difference-in-differences analysis comparing trends in outcomes among enrollees whose employers offer an HDHP (treatment group) to enrollees whose employers never offer an HDHP (comparison group). Participants: Enrollees with OUD from a national sample of commercial health insurance plans during 2007–2017 who initiate buprenorphine treatment. Main Measures: Number of days of continuous buprenorphine treatment; probabilities of continuous buprenorphine treatment ≥30, ≥90, ≥180, and ≥365 days; probability of concurrent (i.e., within the same month) behavioral therapy (i.e., counseling or psychotherapy); probability of concurrent OUD-related evaluation and management visits; proportions of buprenorphine treatment episodes with counseling/psychotherapy and evaluation and management visits; and out-of-pocket (OOP) spending on buprenorphine, behavioral therapy, and evaluation and management visits. Key Results: HDHPs were associated with an average increase of $98 (95% CI: $48, $150) on OOP spending on buprenorphine per treatment episode but no change in the number of days of continuous buprenorphine treatment or concurrent use of related services. Conclusions: HDHPs do not reduce continuity of buprenorphine treatment among commercially insured enrollees with OUD but may increase financial burden for this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)769-776
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • buprenorphine
  • financing
  • high deductible health plans
  • insurance
  • opioid use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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