The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism will fund a new study led by Amanda Abraham, associate professor of public administration and policy at the University of Georgia, and co-principal investigator Christina Andrews, an associate professor of health services policy and management at the University of South Carolina. Abraham and Andrews will use the $2.57 million, four-year R01 grant to examine the effectiveness of Medicaid-covered alcohol use disorder treatment.

“Alcohol-related morbidity and mortality are on the rise in the United States. Additionally, more than 14 million Americans met diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder in 2018,” Abraham says. “Expanding access to alcohol use disorder treatment is more important than ever.”

Medicaid is intended to increase access and reduce mortality among vulnerable populations. However, many state-level programs do not cover all the necessary treatments for alcohol use disorder and have policies that restrict access. Most Medicaid programs contract with managed care organizations, but despite these partnerships, little is known about the content, implementation, and outcomes of the plans offered.

With this study, which is the first of its kind, Abraham and her team will investigate the effects of these programs on access to alcohol use disorder treatment as well as adverse outcomes for the enrollees (e.g., emergency department visits, hospitalizations, mortality). The project will encompass 142 different Medicaid-contracted managed care organization plans across 18 states and the full continuum of treatment.

“This research will provide tangible guidance to states and Medicaid managed care organization plans,” says co-principal investigator Dr. Christina Andrews. “Specifically, it will help us better understand how to best structure coverage and utilization management parameters to ensure appropriate and efficient access to alcohol use disorder treatment.”

Amanda J. Abraham received her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in 2006. She specializes in addiction health services research. Her work focuses on the impact of federal and state policy on the accessibility and quality of substance use disorder treatment, particularly for Medicaid and Medicare enrollees.  Dr. Abraham currently serves as a co-investigator on several federal grants funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.