Medicaid prevalence and opioid use disorder treatment access disparities

Health Serv Res. 2022 Apr;57(2):422-429. doi: 10.1111/1475-6773.13920. Epub 2021 Dec 18.


Objective: To examine how variation in the size of the local Medicaid population moderates Medicaid-to-private treatment access differentials for women with opioid use disorder (OUD).

Data sources: County-level information on total Medicaid enrollment combined with randomized field experiment data from 10 diverse states that used a simulated patient (audit) methodology to examine buprenorphine providers' appointment granting behavior.

Study design: We used multiple regression modeling approaches to capture the moderating influence of Medicaid prevalence on differences in the likelihood of receiving an insurance-covered appointment between Medicaid and privately insured female patients.

Data extraction: Completed calls to buprenorphine treatment providers.

Principal findings: We find a 0.37 percentage point (p value <0.01) narrowing of the Medicaid-to-private access gap with each one percentage point increase in the local insured population on Medicaid. There is effectively no difference in the likelihood of being granted an insurance-covered appointment across the two payer groups in the top tercile of Medicaid penetration.

Conclusions: When Medicaid is a common source of insurance within the local population, buprenorphine providers are much less likely to discriminate between Medicaid and privately insured prospective patients. Efforts to enhance equitable access across patient groups are perhaps best targeted where Medicaid prevalence is lower.

Keywords: Medicaid access; audit study methodology; buprenorphine providers; opioid use disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Buprenorphine* / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Medicaid
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • United States


  • Buprenorphine