Medicaid Fueling Opioid Epidemic? New Theory Is Challenged

An intriguing new theory is gaining traction among conservative foes of the Obama-era health law: Its Medicaid expansion to low-income adults may be fueling the opioid epidemic.

If true, that would represent a shocking outcome for the Affordable Care Act. But there’s no evidence to suggest that’s happening, say university researchers who study the drug problem and are puzzled by such claims. Some even say Medicaid may be helping mitigate the consequences of the epidemic.

Circulating in conservative media, the Medicaid theory is bolstered by a private analysis produced by the Health and Human Services Department for Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. The analysis says the overdose death rate rose nearly twice as much in states that expanded Medicaid compared with states that didn’t.

Independent experts say the analysis misses some crucial facts and skips standard steps that researchers use to rule out coincidences.

Johnson has asked the agency’s internal watchdog



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