Health

Since Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion in 2014, far more people are receiving treatment for opioid and heroin addiction than before. That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

The report shows a 740 percent increase in substance abuse services for Medicaid expansion beneficiaries. The number of Kentuckians with traditional Medicaid who received treatment for substance was four times higher between 2014 and 2016, according to the report.

The increase coincides with a regional epidemic in the use of heroin and other opioids.

“The highest incidence of substance abuse is in young adults, and we also know that the highest incidents of a lack of insurance is in young adults, said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation. “And the ACA has expanded coverage to that population. And they’ve obviously used it in many instances to seek treatment.”

Courtesy Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

There’s also been a 15 percent increase in inpatient substance abuse treatment admissions since 2012.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, required Medicaid plans, small employers and exchange plans to offer mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Traditional Medicaid only provided very limited substance abuse coverage to pregnant women and children. The newly expanded population included childless adults earning up to about $15,000 a year, and families.

By 2014, the death rate in Kentucky due to drug overdoses was more than 24 per 100,000 people, compared with 15 per 100,000 people nationwide. The majority of these overdoses were due to opioid use, according to the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

By 2014, prescription opioid overdoses declined slightly to 47 percent, and heroin deaths had increased to 22 percent.

Expanded Medicaid in Kentucky and nationwide is now in question as President-elect Donald Trump — along with the Republican-led Congress — has vowed to repeal and replace the ACA. Trump has proposed giving states pools of money to use as they wish with limited requirements.

 

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.