New DHS system will monitor doctors prescribing too many opioids to Medicaid, MinnesotaCare patients

Healthcare providers will be put on improvement programs if they're giving out too many.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that the new opioid reporting measure includes "opioids prescribed to patients in inpatient settings, those with cancer, and those receiving hospice services," but we should actually have said excludes. We apologize for the error.

Health providers found to be prescribing too many opioids to Medicaid and MinnesotaCare patients in Minnesota will be subject to a state-monitored "quality improvement program."

The announcement from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) says that more than 16,000 health care providers serving residents who receive state-subsidized healthcare will receive reports in the coming weeks comparing how many opioids they're prescribing compared to their peers.

It comes as the DHS found that the amount of opioid prescriptions in Minnesota counties ranged from 27.4 per 100 residents to 98.6 in 2017.

In the same year, 401 opioid deaths were reported in Minnesota, of which 188 were linked to prescription opioids and methadone.

More than a quarter of healthcare providers serving MinnesotaCare and Medicaid patients in Minnesota who wrote at least 10 opioids last year are above what the DHS calls its "quality improvement threshold" for at least one of seven measures it uses to assess excessive opioid distribution.

These measures exclude opioids prescribed to patients in inpatient settings, those with cancer, and those receiving hospice services.

After the first set of opioid reports has been issued, healthcare providers – which includes medical doctors, dentists and nurse practitioners – will be given the opportunity to improve their practices.

If they haven't improved sufficiently by the time the second set of reports are issued, they will be required to undergo a quality improvement program monitored by the DHS starting in 2020.

Sign up: Subscribe to our daily newsletters

If the health providers continue to not meet the quality standards set by the DHS and are carrying out prescribing processes that is considered unsafe, they could face being removed from the Medicaid program in 2021.

"The need to improve opioid prescribing behavior and reduce overprescribing is demonstrated in the wide variation in the state’s opioid prescribing rates, which cannot be fully explained by differences in patient demographics or geography," the DHS said.

Such variation includes the aforementioned disparity in opioid prescribing rates by county, but also the fact that the top-quartile of emergency physicians prescribe opioids at a rate 2.8 times above the median.

In family medicine, the top quartile prescribe opioids at a rate 3.8 times higher than the median.

"DHS is committed to these quality improvement efforts and will work closely with health care professionals to ensure safe, appropriate opioid prescribing in Minnesota," said DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey.

Next Up

Antoine Winfield Jr.

Watch: Gopher alums Antoine Winfield Jr., Tyler Johnson make key plays in Bucs' playoff win

The Minnesota greats had a pair of highlights as Tampa Bay advanced to the NFC Championship.


Crews respond to fire at Gertens in Inver Grove Heights

It's reported that a greenhouse on the grounds was on fire.

Marcus Carr

Why the Gophers could be in line for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament

The Gophers are done with a brutal stretch and are poised to make a run.

police tape

Authorities ID man fatally struck by 'errant bullet' in Willmar

The man was working in his garage when he was fatally shot.


1 dead, 1 critically injured in head-on crash on Highway 169

The State Patrol says driving impaired may have been a factor in the crash.

Richard Pitino

Gophers game against Nebraska postponed due to COVID outbreak

The Cornhuskers have had 12 members of its team test positive for COVID-19.

Bob Kroll

What Minneapolis Police Lt. Bob Kroll said in Sunday radio interview

Kroll said that once he's retired he'll go "radio silent."

coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, covid-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID update for Sunday, January 17

The health department provides updates daily at 11 a.m.

Sen. Julia Coleman

'No one's business': State senator calls out attack on her pregnancy

Sen. Julia Coleman represents Minnesota's District 47.

Willmar Police Department

'Errant bullet' goes through garage wall, kills Willmar man

The man was working in his garage when he was shot, witnesses said.


Maplewood dentist accused of illegally prescribing opioids

He didn't have a medical purpose for prescribing the drugs, federal prosecutors say.

Watch: Eden Prairie families devastated by opioids tell their stories

Eden Prairie police put together a video of interviews with two bereaved families.

Screen Shot 2019-07-09 at 11.01.36 AM

Overdose deaths involving opioids, other drugs fell in MN last year

It's welcome news, but health officials say overdose rates are still at historic highs.

Opioid, suicide, alcohol deaths

Suicide and fatal opioid overdoses continue to rise in MN

The latest figures, covering 2017, shows a continuing trend.

Medica sues Minnesota DHS for offering its competitors better rates

The insurer's withdrawal from the MinnesotaCare and Medicaid programs affected 300,000 patients.

Care at Children's Minnesota now more expensive for BlueCross BlueShield patients

BCBS says it has in-network contracts with several other healthcare providers in Minnesota.


The criteria MN doctors look for before testing for coronavirus

Health care providers follow specific criteria set by the CDC.

100,000 on MinnesotaCare could lose coverage if AHCA becomes law, commissioner says

Cuts to Medicaid could lead to the elimination of Basic Health Programs like MinnesotaCare.