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Economic Analysis of Opioid Use Disorder in the Medicare Fee-for Service Program

This report quantifies the economic impact of opioid use disorder (OUD) specific to the Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) program, which covers approximately 51.6 percent of Medicare beneficiaries. We find that the cost to Medicare for managing these newly diagnosed patients was $29,669 more per patient than the propensity-matched control patients without OUD in 2022. We thus estimate that newly diagnosed OUD patients cost the Medicare program $4.3 billion in 2022. If these incident patient results were extrapolated into a 10-year budgetary impact analysis and if we assume constant rates of OUD incidence in the Medicare population, we estimate that the 10-year impact of OUD to the Medicare program would be $62.56 billion.

Our analysis demonstrates that OUD results in significant Medicare spending, including rising costs to beneficiaries through copayments and increased premiums. Additional work may be needed to determine whether the cost differential for incident patients with OUD generalizes to prevalent OUD patients as well. Though the 10-year budgetary impact figures require extrapolation and assumptions about future OUD use, they illustrate for policymakers the size of the fiscal challenge created by OUD in the Medicare population.

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