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Many Medicare beneficiaries are not receiving medication to treat their opioid use disorder

Posted 12/26/2021

Although nearly one million Medicare beneficiaries were diagnosed with opioid use disorder in 2020, less than 16 percent of them received the necessary medication to treat their disorder, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG). The findings raise concerns that beneficiaries face challenges accessing treatment. The report also found that less than half of the beneficiaries who received medication to treat their opioid use disorder also received behavioral therapy. These services may be provided in-person or via telehealth; however, the full extent to which beneficiaries use telehealth for behavioral therapy is unknown as Medicare does not require opioid treatment programs to report this information. To help increase the number of Medicare beneficiaries receiving treatment, OIG recommends that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services conduct additional outreach to beneficiaries to raise awareness about Medicare coverage for the treatment of opioid use disorder; take steps to increase the number of providers and opioid treatment programs for Medicare beneficiaries with opioid use disorder; create an action plan and take steps to address disparities in the treatment of opioid use disorder; and collect data on the use of telehealth in opioid treatment programs.

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