Is Medicaid fuelling the opioid crisis?

Without thinking much about it, someone who overdoses on prescription opioids of heroin can just keep going right back to Medicaid for more easy access to the drug that nearly killed them the first time. The state just keeps paying for it.

Which is why, according to a new study, Medicaid recipients are three times more likely to overdose on opioids than people on private insurance.

Sure, it's easy to dismiss the opioid crisis as a phenomenon peculiar to people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. But obviously, there are causes and mechanisms here, which is why the numbers are coming in as they are. It's not just the supposed character flaws of those taking these opioids that is at work, it's the drug dealer that accommodates them on the other side, which in this case, the state. Dependency on the state seems to be fuelling dependency on drugs as much as anything.

According to the Washington Free Beacon:

The study evaluated Medicaid claims in Pennsylvania from 2008 through 2013 for those individuals ages 12 to 64 who had experienced a prescription opioid or heroin overdose. There were 6,013 cases found—3,945 were individuals who overdosed on prescription opioids and 2,068 overdosed on heroin.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals on Medicaid are three times more likely to have a risk of opioid overdose than those who are privately insured.

Fifty-nine percent of those who overdosed on opioids were given opioid prescriptions after they overdosed, and 39.7 percent of those who overdosed on heroin were given the same.

"Our findings signal a relatively weak health system response to a potentially life-threatening event," said Julie Donahue, Ph.D., who authored the study. "However, they also point to opportunities for interventions that could prevent future overdoses in a particularly vulnerable population."

Notice also that the states that have increased Medicaid expansion in the greatest amounts due to the Affordable Care Act are also the ones that are known to have the greatest problems with the opioid crisis, if one takes a look at this graph here:

This is not to say there aren't other causes for the opioid crisis as well. President Obama's open borders policy opened the floodgates for cartel imports of opiates for one. The pressures on the medical profession, in which doctors are pressed by addicts to prescribe opioids in unsafe amounts or else be hit with bad patient reviews is another. There also is the poverty and lack of opportunity that motivates many to want to take opioids. But there is little doubt the round-heeled way Medicaid prescribes in its runaway expense culture plays a role, too.

So much for the claim about the heartlessness of private insurance companies. At least its recipients are alive to tell about it. Things happen because there are incentives for them to happen. If a gift is freely given, you take it, as Milton Friedman once observed. And to paraphrase his student, Thomas Sowell, you can have all the opioid addiction you'd like to pay for.