Medicaid Utilization Before and After a Natural Disaster in the 2016 Baton Rouge-Area Flood

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American journal of public health


To understand changes in behavioral health services utilization and expenditures before and after natural disaster with an adult Medicaid population affected by the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-area flood (August 2016). We examined de-identified behavioral health claims data for Medicaid-insured adults in the affected region for 10 months before and after flooding (October 2015-June 2017). This constituted 273 233 provider claims for 22 196 individuals. Claims data included patient gender, behavioral health diagnoses, treatment dates, and costs. We made adjustments for Medicaid expansion by using monthly enrollment data. Overall, most male patient behavioral health care visits were for substance use disorders (33.6%) and most female patient behavioral health care visits were for depression-related disorders (30%). Both diagnostic categories increased after the flood by 66% and 44%, respectively. Expansion accounted for a 4% increase in claims. Postflood claims reflected 8% to 10% higher costs. Greater amounts of behavioral health care services were sought in all 10 months of the postflood study period. We observed gender differences in use of services and diagnoses. Behavioral health care services following natural disasters must be extended longer than traditionally expected, with consideration for specific population needs.

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