Medicaid expansion and opioid deaths

from Health Economics at on November 27, 2019 at 12:24AM


The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and drug overdose deaths are becoming a leading cause of death. Meanwhile, in 2010, the United States passed comprehensive health care reform providing access to care for millions of individuals who previously lacked care. Part of the new access came from expanding Medicaid, the insurance program for low‐income individuals. Expanding Medicaid was optional for states. Those individuals living in expansion states gained prescription drug coverage and hence more access to opioid pain‐relievers that are known to be addictive. However, they also gained access to medication‐assisted treatment for addiction. This paper uses a difference‐in‐differences approach and state‐level data from 2010 to 2017 to compare opioid death rates in expansion and non‐expansion states to determine if Medicaid expansion was a potential cause of rising opioid deaths. We find no evidence that Medicaid expansion is related to opioid deaths.