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The Impact of Buprenorphine on Medicaid Expenditures

Buprenorphine is a medication that can be used to treat addiction to opioids, such as heroin. Unlike methadone treatment, which is tightly monitored and requires daily visits to a treatment center, buprenorphine can be prescribed in a doctor’s office and self-administered.

Buprenorphine's flexibility and safety make it an attractive alternative to methadone for patients who may not otherwise seek treatment.  Expanded access to addiction treatment is particularly important for Medicaid populations, where rates of substance use disorders are higher than in any other insured group.  However, buprenorphine is more expensive than methadone, prompting questions of its cost-effectiveness as a treatment option.

Massachusetts’ Medicaid program, MassHealth, allowed unrestricted access to buprenorphine during the five years following its approval, making it a good setting for studying the impact of buprenorphine on total Medicaid spending for beneficiaries with opioid addictions.

UMass Medical School's Center for Health Policy and Research is studying the impact of buprenorphine on Medicaid expenditures in Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. The study is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Substance Abuse Policy Research program.

The study will compare:

  • Medicaid beneficiaries with diagnosed opioid addiction who receive buprenorphine treatment to those who receive other forms of treatment,
  • Changes in Medicaid expenditures for beneficiaries with opioid addiction who receive buprenorphine to changes in expenditures for those who receive other forms of treatment, adjusting for group differences, and
  • Changes in the rate of health care utilization, including all-cause inpatient admissions and emergency department visits, across treatment groups.

Additionally, our researchers are studying buprenorphine use among Latinos and other underserved populations.

Key Staff

Robin Clark    Robin E. Clark, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Research
Jeff Baxter   Jeff Baxter, M.D.
Consultant, Research and Evaluation Unit 

Learn More

Jeff Baxter
(508) 334-7771