Dr Anne L. Schwartz on Medicaid's Role in Addressing the Opioid Epidemic and Social Determinants of Health

Medicaid programs have been working to address to opioid epidemic in a number of ways and is starting to get involved in addressing social determinants of health, explained Anne L. Schwartz, PhD, executive director of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission.

What has Medicaid’s role been in combating the opioid epidemic?
Medicaid programs have been working to address the opioid epidemic in a number of different ways. The first is obviously providing coverage for people who weren’t previously covered, and covering the treatment services associated with their substance use disorder. Medicaid programs have also been working with other state agencies, for example, pharmacy boards, to have better monitoring of prescribing practices and limits on the availability of prescription opioids.

What is the importance of addressing social determinants of health?
So, this is an area that I think is still really evolving. The research literature is pretty strong about the impact of different factors, such as education, poverty, living close to environmental hazards and the impact on health. The thing that’s tricky in the Medicaid program is that it is a program that provides medical assistance. And I think what you’re seeing now, states, health plans, advocates and others trying to sort it out what is basically an insurance vehicle to try and address some of these factors that affect health that are not normally a part of a health insurance package.
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