Medications for treatment of opioid use disorder are important for the health of mothers and their newborns – they can prevent overdose death and may prevent preterm birth. Yet, there are many barriers to obtaining treatment, especially for pregnant people and people relying on Medicaid insurance coverage. Laura Henkhaus, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at the Vanderbilt University Data Science Institute, led a study examining disparities in receipt of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) among pregnant people to identify who is left behind in getting these critical treatments and thereby inform how interventions should be targeted. This project utilized claims and enrollment data from Tennessee’s Medicaid program (TennCare) for mothers, which were linked to claims for their children and to birth records from the Tennessee Department of Health. This sample included all TennCare-covered deliveries from 2009-2016. Examining various family sociodemographic factors, race alone predicted much lower likelihood of receipt of MOUD for non-Hispanic Black vs. White pregnant people. Primary language other than English, Hispanic ethnicity, and rural residence were also associated with much lower likelihoods of receiving MOUD. This research provides evidence of inequities in health care receipt to be addressed by policymakers and health care practice.
Other study members included Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH of the Mildred Stahlman Division of Neonatology at Vanderbilt University and the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Melinda Buntin, PhD, Sarah Henderson, MPH, and Pikki Lai, PhD of the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The research was funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Policies for Action grant and grants from the National Institute for Drug Abuse and the National Institutes for Health.
Press release here.