MA in the News

THE EFFECTS OF MEDICARE ADVANTAGE ON OPIOID USE

NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Key Takeaways:

  • Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan enrollees were less likely to fill an opioid prescription drug compared to stand-alone drug plans.
  • Supports the conclusions of previous literature that integration of drug coverage and other medical benefits offered by Medicare Advantage plans improves quality of care.

Summary:

As rates of opioid abuse increase, there has been much research on determinants of prescription opioid use. However, the literature rarely includes the role of health insurance plans, identifying a significant gap. In this article, researchers used Medicare Advantage drug claims data from 2014 to explored whether drug coverage affected the volume of opioids consumed. They found that enrollment in Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan reduced the beneficiaries’ likelihood of filling an opioid prescription by 11.6% when compared to stand-alone drug plans, which amounts to a 37% reduction relative to the average likelihood of 31.3%. Further, nearly half of the 11.6% reduction in opioid use by Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan enrollees was due to a reduction in prescriptions from the top 1% of opioid prescribers. Additionally, they found that of beneficiaries with an opioid prescription, Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan enrollment did “not have a statistically significant effect on the number of days’ supply of opioids received, either from any prescriber or a high prescriber.” The authors claim that their findings support the conclusions of previous literature that integration of drug coverage and other medical benefits offered by Medicare Advantage plans improves quality of care.

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