New insurance data analysis shows how large the opioid epidemic is

Dive Brief:

  • Medical services or procedures listed on an insurance claim among the U.S. privately-insured population with an opioid dependence diagnosis increased 3,203% from 2007 to 2014, according to a recent Fair Health white paper
  • During the same time period, opioid misuse increased by 317% and heroin overdoses increased by 530%.
  • According to the CDC, opioids in 2014 contributed to 28,647 deaths in the U.S.

Dive Insight:

The opioid/heroin epidemic has become a large focus for government officials. Additional CDC data noted heroin overdose death rates quadrupled between 2002 and 2013 with more than 8,200 deaths in 2013. To help the issue, President Obama in February proposed $1.1 billion in new funding to address the issue.

On July 22, President Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 to increase naloxone availability and boost prescription drug monitoring programs. Also last month, the White House highlighted several efforts aimed at mitigating the epidemic. One of the efforts revolves around the encouragement of safe pain management, which seeks to ease hospitals' concerns about HCAHPS survey pain management questions that impact hospital scores.

Fair Health reviewed de-identified claims data provided by private insurers spanning about 150 million individuals, Kaiser Health News reported.

"The primary diagnosis of opioid dependency kicks off a number of medical services, including office visits, lab tests and other related treatments," wrote KHN's Julie Appleby, adding, "The report found that the number of such services rendered to patients with a dependency diagnosis went from about 217,000 in 2007 to about 7 million in 2014."

The nonprofit found 69% of claim lines -- services or procedures listed on payer claims -- for opioid-dependent individuals from 2007 to 2014 were seen in the 19-35 years-old age group. During the same time period, the same age group represented 50% of all claim lines with diagnoses for individuals who misused opioids.

Claims listing pregnancy drug dependence diagnoses (including opioid dependence) rose 511% during the study period, the report found. 

"Unlike earlier opioid abuse epidemics, the present crisis is disproportionately affecting white, middle-class people in non-urban settings, including those with private health insurance," the report's authors concluded.

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Filed Under: Payer Policy & Regulation
Top image credit: Flickr, Be.Futureproof