Evaluation of a Medicaid performance improvement project to reduce high-dose opioid prescriptions

Daniel M. Hartung, Jonah Geddes, Sara E. Hallvik, P. Todd Korthuis, Luke Middleton, Gillian Leichtling, Christi Hildebran, Hyunjee Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In 2015, Oregon’s Medicaid program implemented a performance improvement project to reduce high-dose opioid prescribing across its 16 coordinated care organizations (CCOs). The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of that program on prescription opioid use and outcomes. Methods: Using Medicaid claims data from 2014 to 2017, we conducted interrupted time-series analyses to examine changes in the prescription opioid use and overdose rates before (July 2014 to June 2015) and after (January 2016 to December 2017) implementation of Oregon’s high-dose policy initiative (July 2015 to December 2015). Prescribing outcomes were: 1) total opioid prescriptions 2) high-dose [> 90 morphine milligram equivalents per day] opioid prescriptions, and 3) proportion of opioid prescriptions that were high-dose. Opioid overdose outcomes included emergency department visits or hospitalizations that involved an opioid-related poisoning (total, heroin-involved, non-heroin involved). Analyses were performed at the state and CCO level. Results: There was an immediate reduction in high dose opioid prescriptions after the program was implemented (− 1.55 prescription per 1000 enrollee; 95% CI − 2.26 to − 0.84; p < 0.01). Program implementation was also associated with an immediate drop (− 1.29 percentage points; 95% CI − 1.94 to − 0.64 percentage points; p < 0.01) and trend reduction (− 0.23 percentage point per month; 95% CI − 0.33 to − 0.14 percentage points; p < 0.01) in the monthly proportion of high-dose opioid prescriptions. The trend in total, heroin-involved, and non-heroin overdose rates increased significantly following implementation of the program. Conclusions: Although Oregon’s high-dose opioid performance improvement project was associated with declines in high-dose opioid prescriptions, rates of opioid overdose did not decrease. Policy efforts to reduce opioid prescribing risks may not be sufficient to address the growing opioid crisis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number68
JournalBMC health services research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Medicaid
  • Opioids
  • Overdose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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