Relative costs of care among treatment options for opioid use disorder (OUD) are unknown.
We identified a cohort of 40,885 individuals with a new diagnosis of OUD in a large national de-identified claims database covering commercially insured and Medicare Advantage enrollees. We assigned individuals to 1 of 6 mutually exclusive initial treatment pathways: (1) Inpatient Detox/Rehabilitation Treatment Center; (2) Behavioral Health Intensive, intensive outpatient or Partial Hospitalization Services; (3) Methadone or Buprenorphine; (4) Naltrexone; (5) Behavioral Health Outpatient Services, or; (6) No Treatment. We assessed total costs of care in the initial 90 day treatment period for each strategy using a differences in differences approach controlling for baseline costs.
Within 90 days of diagnosis, 94.8% of individuals received treatment, with the initial treatments being: 15.8% for Inpatient Detox/Rehabilitation Treatment Center, 4.8% for Behavioral Health Intensive, Intensive Outpatient or Partial Hospitalization Services, 12.5% for buprenorphine/methadone, 2.4% for naltrexone, and 59.3% for Behavioral Health Outpatient Services. Average unadjusted costs increased from $3250 per member per month (SD $7846) at baseline to $5047 per member per month (SD $11,856) in the 90 day follow-up period. Compared with no treatment, initial 90 day costs were lower for buprenorphine/methadone [Adjusted Difference in Differences Cost Ratio (ADIDCR) 0.65; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.52-0.80], naltrexone (ADIDCR 0.53; 95% CI, 0.42-0.67), and behavioral health outpatient (ADIDCR 0.54; 95% CI, 0.44-0.66). Costs were higher for inpatient detox (ADIDCR 2.30; 95% CI, 1.88-2.83).
Improving health system capacity and insurance coverage and incentives for outpatient management of OUD may reduce health care costs.