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Substance abuse adds millions to Medicaid's total health care costs
Date:1/5/2009

beginning, there is no reason to believe the relationships we observed here would be different with current Medicaid claims." The study broke new ground by examining medical costs, such as treatment for asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, of those with substance abuse disorders. Earlier studies may have underestimated Medicaid costs for those with such disorders because they did not factor in the medical care expenditures.

The study found that 29 percent of the Medicaid patients were diagnosed with substance abuse disorders in the six states, ranging from a low of 16.1 percent in Arkansas to 37.1 percent in New Jersey and 39.6 percent in Washington. For people with substance abuse disorders, the six states alone paid $104 million more for medical care and $105.5 million more for behavioral health care than for those patients who did not have an alcohol or drug abuse diagnosis. If the findings were extrapolated to the entire country, the extra costs for those with substance abuse disorders would easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The researchers said possible explanations for the higher medical costs included generally higher prevalence of physical illness among older people, the cumulative health impact of long-term substance abuse, greater reluctance among older adults to seek addiction treatment in specialty settings, and more severe chronic disease among older adults with addictions.

All six states showed that medical care and behavioral health care costs were higher with those who abused drugs and alcohol compared to those who did not. But the median Medicaid cost per state varied widely.

In New Jersey, people classified as having severe mental illness and a substance abuse disorder cost a median of $5,345 for behavioral health, compared to a median of $1,601 for a person without a substance abuse disorder. In Washington, though, the cost for someone with a substance abuse disorder was less than half t
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Contact: Carol Lin Vieira
cvieira@burnesscommunications.com
401-714-0821
Burness Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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