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Zhang IY, Wong ES, Rosen JE, Gordon DB, Flum DR, Liao JM. Association Between Statewide Medicaid Opioid Policy and Postoperative Opioid Prescribing among Surgeons at a Large Safety-Net Hospital. Journal of the American College of Surgeons. 2022 Sep 1; 235(3):519-528.
BACKGROUND: Restrictive state and payer policies may be effective in reducing opioid prescribing by surgeons, but their impact has not been well studied. In 2017, Washington Medicaid implemented an opiod prescribing limit of 42 pills, prompting a large regional safety-net hospital to implement a decision support intervention in response. We aimed to evaluate the effects on surgeons'' prescribing. STUDY DESIGN: We retrospectively studied postoperative opioid prescribing (quantity of pills prescribed at discharge) to opioid-naïve surgical patients at a regional safety-net hospital from 2016 to 2020. We investigated associations between the policy and opioid prescribing by using interrupted time series analysis, adjusting for clinical and sociodemographic factors. RESULTS: A total of 12,799 surgical encounters involving opioid-naïve patients (59% male, mean age 52) were analyzed. Opioids were prescribed for 75%. From 2016 to 2020, the mean prescribed opioid quantity decreased from 36 pills to 17 pills. In interrupted time series analysis, the Medicaid policy implementation was associated with an immediate change of -8.4 pills (95% CI -12 to -4.7; p < 0.001) per prescription and a subsequent rate of decrease similar to that prepolicy. In a comparison of changes between patients insured through Medicaid vs Medicare, Medicaid patients had an immediate change of -9.8 pills (95% CI -19 to -0.76; p = 0.03) after policy implementation and continued decreases similar to those prepolicy. No immediate or subsequent policy-related changes were observed among Medicare patients. CONCLUSION: In a large regional safety-net institution, postoperative opioid prescriptions decreased in size over time, with immediate changes associated with a state Medicaid policy and corresponding decision support intervention. These findings pose implications for surgeons, hospital leaders, and payers seeking to address opioid use via judicious prescribing.