People with substance abuse disorders cost Medicaid hundreds of millions of dollars annually in medical care, suggesting that early interventions for substance abuse could not only improve outcomes but also save substantial amounts of money, according to a comprehensive study that examined records of nearly 150,000 people in six states.
"Substance abuse probably costs Medicaid programs a lot more than they think," said Robin E. Clark, PhD, associate professor of family medicine & community health of the Center for Health Policy and Research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. "We found that the medical care costs for all health problems among those with substance abuse issues are quite significant, which means that there could be a huge cost savings if prevention or early treatment programs were started to improve the health of substance abusers."
The most striking finding, Clark said, was that as the patients with substance abuse disorders got older, the medical care costs increased at a far higher rate than behavioral health costs.
"It suggests that there are not a lot of substance abuse services that successfully target the older age group, and that there could be substantial savings and health benefits by focusing on these populations," he said.
Clark's study, "The Impact of Substance Use Disorders on Medical Expenditures for Medicaid Beneficiaries with Behavioral Health Disorders," published December 30 in the online edition of the journal Psychiatric Services, was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP). The study looked at records from 148,457 people in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, and Washington in 1999. It used claims for Medicaid benefits of those with behavioral health diagnoses, and compared those who had and did not have substance abuse disorders. Clark said, "Although more recent data were unavailable at the study's
|Contact: Carol Lin Vieira|