Rejection of Patients With Opioid Use Disorder Referred for Post-acute Medical Care Before and After an Anti-discrimination Settlement in Massachusetts

J Addict Med. 2021 Jan-Feb;15(1):20-26. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000693.


Objectives: To determine how commonly medical inpatients with opioid use disorder (OUD) referred for postacute medical care were rejected due to substance use or treatment with opioid agonist therapy (OAT). Additionally, to assess for changes in rejection rates following the United States Attorney's May 2018 settlement with a Massachusetts nursing facility for violating anti-discrimination laws for such rejections.

Methods: We linked electronic referrals to private Massachusetts postacute medical care facilities from Boston Medical Center in 2018 with clinical data. We included referrals with evidence of OUD using ICD-10 diagnosis codes or OAT receipt. We identified the frequency of referrals where the stated rejection reason was substance use or OAT and classified these as discriminatory. We used segmented regression to assess for changes in proportion of referrals with substance use and OAT-related rejections before and after the settlement.

Results: In 2018, 219 OUD-associated hospitalizations resulted in 1648 referrals to 285 facilities; 81.8% (1348) were rejected. Among hospitalizations, 37.4% (82) received at least 1 discriminatory rejection. Among rejections, 15.1% (203) were discriminatory (105 for OAT and 98 for substance use). Among facilities, 29.1% (83) had at least one discriminatory rejection. We found no differences in proportion of discriminatory rejections before and after the settlement.

Conclusions: Individuals hospitalized with OUD frequently experience explicit discrimination when rejected from postacute care despite federal and state protections. Efforts are needed to enhance enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, regulations, and policies to ensure access to postacute medical care for people with OUD and ongoing medical needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Boston
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Subacute Care*
  • United States