CMS mapping tool on prescriptions helps communities fight opioid crisis

This Commentary is written by Jean Moody-Williams, regional CMS administrator

Leveraging community partnerships and critical data is one of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ key strategies to help tailor prevention and treatment efforts to combat the opioid crisis, particularly in rural communities.

With that aim, CMS launched an expanded version of the Opioid Prescribing Mapping Tool, ensuring that CMS and our partners have the most complete and current data needed to effectively address the opioid epidemic across the country. This update to the Opioid Prescribing Mapping Tool further demonstrates the agency’s commitment to opioid data transparency and using data to better inform local prevention and treatment personnel.

For the first time, the tool includes data for opioid prescribing in the Medicaid program. In addition, users can now make geographic comparisons of Medicare Part D opioid prescribing rates over time for both urban and rural communities.

“Fighting this epidemic and its impact in every state, county and municipality is a priority of the Trump Administration, and this mapping tool gives our state and local partners the data they need to build on their own targeted solutions,” says CMS Principal Deputy Administration for Operations Kimberly Brandt.

Last year, CMS published the Roadmap to Address the Opioid Crisis, which highlighted the role of data in supporting all of CMS’ activities to promote prevention and treatment of opioid use disorder. CMS has made fighting the opioid epidemic a priority, and data is a critical tool to help the agency develop targeted policies and track their progress.

For example, CMS used data to identify Medicare physicians who were prescribing higher levels of opioids than their peers. It then sent more than 24,000 letters in 2017 and 2018 to those physicians, to encourage safe prescribing practices.

The Opioid Mapping Tool, first launched in 2015, originally provided a snapshot of Medicare Part D prescribing rates from 2013. Last year it was expanded to include opioid prescribing rates for 2016, as well as the change in opioid prescribing rates from 2013 to 2016. This latest version includes new features that offer an expanded view of prescribing rates over time and across regions, allowing us to measure trends and make comparisons.

These interactive features allow health care professionals combating the opioid crisis to better understand trends in prescribing rates in their areas.

Specifically, the latest additions to the mapping tool include:

• Medicaid state opioid prescribing rates

The Medicaid Mapping Tool allows users to review Medicaid opioid prescribing rates at the state level and compare prescribing rates in fee-for-service and managed care.


**  In Medicaid, opioid prescribing rates at the state level (as of 2016) range from 2.9% to 9.4%, with the national average opioid prescribing rate at 5.4%. Opioid prescribing in Medicaid is slightly higher in managed care (5.4%) than in fee-for-service settings (5.3%).

**  The data also shows the change in prescribing rates from 2013 to 2016.

• Medicare Part D geographic opioid prescribing rates

The Medicare Part D Opioid Prescribing Mapping Tool has been updated with additional maps that allow users to quickly compare Part D opioid prescribing rates in urban and rural areas at the state, county and ZIP code levels.

**  Medicare Part D opioid prescribing rates at the state level (as of 2016) range from 2.9% to 7.4%, while the national average opioid prescribing rate is 5.3%.

**  Nationally, opioid prescribing is slightly higher in rural areas (5.5%) than urban areas (5.3%).

**  Fourteen states have higher opioid prescribing rates in rural areas than in urban areas, while 34 states that have slightly higher opioid prescribing rates in urban areas than in rural areas.

By openly sharing this data in a secure, broad, and interactive way, CMS is increasing community awareness among local stakeholders, such as researchers, providers, and public health officials, to help us address this crisis, and continuing to demonstrate the agency’s commitment to combating the opioid epidemic.

The opioid prescribing mapping tools are available at:

Jean Moody-Williams is regional CMS administrator