5 study findings on health spending related to opioid addiction treatment

Kelly Gooch -

FAIR Health has put a dollar amount on the impact of the epidemic of opioid abuse, involving both prescription pain relievers and heroin.

In its new white paper, the national, independent, nonprofit organization looks at the increasing healthcare costs and demand for specific services attributable to the epidemic. FAIR Health analyzed data from its database of more than 21 billion privately billed healthcare claims to identify trends and patterns in these costs and services.

Here are five study findings:

1. The national aggregated dollar value of charges for opioid-related diagnoses, as well as the proposed amounts allowable for such diagnoses, increased more than 1,000 percent from 2011 to 2015.

2. Specifically, the study found insurers' payments to hospitals, laboratories, treatment centers and other medical providers for patients with a diagnosis of opioid dependence or abuse grew from $32.4 million in 2011 to $445.7 million in 2015 — a 1,375 percent increase, according to Kaiser Health News.

3. In 2015, private payers on average paid more than 550 percent higher — almost $16,000 more per patient —than the per-patient average cost based on all patients' claims for a patient diagnosed with opioid abuse or dependence, according to the study.

4. Opioid abuse diagnoses involve significant emergency department charges, while opioid dependence charges are largely represented by laboratory tests and office outpatient visits.

5. Average charges for services associated with opioid abuse and dependence diagnoses vary widely in different states.





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