Cost of opioid addiction stretching Medicaid safety net

The Columbus Dispatch | Catherine Candisky

In southern Ohio’s Scioto County, ground zero for the state’s opioid crisis, 62 of every 1,000 Medicaid enrollees have been diagnosed with drug addiction, the highest rate in the state and up 148 percent since 2010.

Statewide, the rate of dependence, abuse or overdose among those on Medicaid jumped a stunning 262 percent during that time.

A special state audit by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost released Tuesday shows the human toll as well as the dollars-and-cents impact on the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program from the state’s years-long battle with opioids.

Yost says the trend line is worrisome for the financial health of the program, as dollars could become scarce for other health-care needs of the 3 million poor and disabled people who rely on Medicaid, funded by the state and federal governments.

In 2010, the state’s cost of treating opioid addiction through medication-assisted therapies was more than $13 million, but by 2016 it had jumped to $110 million.

“Medicaid is the safety net for our most-needy Ohioans,” Yost said. “That safety net is being stretched thin by the thousands of people who have lost their jobs, their health insurance and are in desperate need of care. As much as we’ve done in Ohio to curb this epidemic, more needs to be done.”

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