HealthDay News — Medicare payment and COVID-19 policy changes increased dispensing of medication treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) among Medicare beneficiaries, according to a study published online May 19 in JAMA Network Open.
Erin A. Taylor, Ph.D., from RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, and colleagues assessed changes in rates of methadone dispensing for OUD following Medicare payment and COVID-19 policy changes in 2020. Analysis included methadone and buprenorphine treatments dispensed for 9.8 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries from Jan. 1, 2019, through March 31, 2022.
The researchers identified 39,252 enrollees with at least one medication treatment for OUD dispensing claim (mean age, 58.6 years; 45.9 percent women), with a total of 195,196 methadone claims and 540,564 buprenorphine pharmacy claims. In 2019, the methadone dispensing rate for Medicare Advantage enrollees was 0 because the policy did not allow any payment until 2020. In the first quarter of 2020, claims rates per 1,000 enrollees were low initially (0.98), and increased to 4.71 in the first quarter of 2022. Increases were primarily seen among dually eligible beneficiaries and beneficiaries <65 years. In quarter 1 of 2019, national buprenorphine dispensing rates were 4.64 per 1,000 enrollees and increased to 7.45 per 1,000 enrollees in quarter 1 of 2022.
“These findings suggest that policies designed to increase access to methadone treatment appear to have increased access to medication treatment for Medicare beneficiaries with opioid use disorder, helping to meet national policy priorities,” the authors write.