10 million fewer doses of opioids prescribed in La. after Medicaid expansion last year

(WAFB) –

The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) has released new data showing fewer opioids are being prescribed since Medicaid expansion began in July of 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. 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,” said Governor John Bel Edwards.

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

The number of prescriptions decreased by 109,675, a 2.08 percent reduction, and the total number of pills prescribed decreased by more than 10 million doses, a 3 percent reduction.

This information is also consistent with preliminary data from the LDH 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 of 2016, the first month of Medicaid expansion to August of 2017, there has been a 40.1 percent decrease in the amount of opioids dispensed for average claims

Since January of 2017, when Medicaid policy changes were first implemented, the number of pills per prescription for Medicaid patients have decreased by more than 25 percent

Health officials attribute these reductions to policy changes made by the legislature and by the Medicaid program. The changes are: 

  • 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

“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. Because of new laws and policies, and better access to the right care, physicians are prescribing fewer total opioids and fewer opioids per patient,” said Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the LDH.

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