Are North Carolina clinicians delivering opioid use disorder treatment to Medicaid beneficiaries?

Addiction. 2022 Nov;117(11):2855-2863. doi: 10.1111/add.15854. Epub 2022 Mar 7.


Background and aims: Medicaid is a public health insurance program in the United States that serves low-income individuals. Medicaid beneficiaries have elevated risk of opioid use disorder (OUD), yet face barriers to receiving medications for OUD (MOUD). To inform efforts to increase MOUD receipt among Medicaid beneficiaries, this study: (1) estimated Medicaid participation prevalence among clinicians authorized to prescribe buprenorphine and (2) estimated the association between clinician characteristics and OUD care delivery to Medicaid beneficiaries.

Design, setting and participants: Retrospective study of North Carolina, USA licensed physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Licensure data from 2018 were merged with 2019 US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) data to identify clinicians who received the DEA waiver required to prescribe buprenorphine (n = 1714). Medicaid claims data were used to characterize clinician engagement in OUD care delivery.

Measurements: Outcomes were indicators of any Medicaid professional claims and any Medicaid prescription claims for buprenorphine and/or naltrexone. Predictors included clinician characteristics (e.g. gender and race) and characteristics of clinicians' practice location (e.g. area opioid overdose death rate).

Findings: Most waivered clinicians delivered services to Medicaid beneficiaries, ranging from 67.0% of behavioral health clinicians to 82.9% of specialist physicians. Among waivered clinicians with Medicaid professional claims, prevalence of prescribing buprenorphine to Medicaid beneficiaries ranged from 30.3% among specialist physicians to 51.6% among behavioral health clinicians. The probability of prescribing MOUD to Medicaid beneficiaries was higher among waivered clinicians identifying as male compared with female (8.5 percentage points, P = 0.004) or black compared with white (9.9 percentage points, P = 0.007), older clinicians (0.5 percentage point increase per year, P < 0.001) and clinicians in counties with a higher opioid overdose death rate (5.0 percentage point increase per additional death per 10 000 residents, P = 0.010).

Conclusions: Among clinicians in North Carolina, USA who are authorized to prescribe buprenorphine, 67-83% (depending on type of specialist) deliver services to Medicaid beneficiaries, but only 30-52% of those prescribe medications for opioid use disorder (OUD) to Medicaid beneficiaries. Engagement in OUD care delivery to Medicaid beneficiaries varies by clinician demographic and area characteristics.

Keywords: Buprenorphine; Medicaid; health work-force; insurance claims; opioid use disorder; underserved populations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Buprenorphine* / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicaid
  • Naltrexone / therapeutic use
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Opiate Overdose*
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone