FAIR Health: Opioid epidemic affects nearly all age groups in US urban and rural areas
Private insurance claim lines with opioid abuse and dependence diagnoses were found in every age group from 13-18 years to over 80 years, and in urban areas, in every age group from 13-18 years to 71-80 years.
Further, claim lines with opioid abuse and dependence diagnoses were more concentrated among middle-aged people in rural settings, and young and middle-aged people in urban settings.
These findings are based on a FAIR Health white paper published in June 2017, Peeling Back the Curtain on Regional Variation in the Opioid Crisis: Spotlight on Five Key Urban Centers and Their Respective States, the third in a series of FAIR Health white papers on the United States’ continuing opioid epidemic.
FAIR Health analyzed data from its database of more than 23 billion privately billed healthcare claims to study the opioid crisis in rural and urban settings, in the nation’s five most populous cities (Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia) and in their respective states during the recent ten-year period 2007 to 2016. The term “opioid-related diagnoses” referred to four diagnoses: opioid abuse, opioid dependence, heroin overdose and opioid overdose (i.e., overdose of opioids excluding heroin).
Among the findings:
- In Texas, San Antonio and its immediate surrounding areas constituted 5 percent of the population, but 66 percent of the distribution of claim lines with opioid-related diagnoses.
- Of the five most populous cities in the country, Philadelphia outstripped the others when the number of claim lines with opioid-related diagnoses in each city were compared to the number of claim lines for all medical care in the relevant state from 2007 to 2016.
- Of six regions in California, the greatest increase in claim lines with opioid-related diagnoses from 2007 to 2016 was in southern California (including Los Angeles), where the increase was 31,897 percent.
- In New York State, New York City constituted 43 percent of the population but only 13 percent of the distribution of claim lines with opioid-related diagnoses.
- In both Illinois and Pennsylvania, claim lines with an opioid dependence diagnosis occurred more frequently in males than females in all age groups—but the gap narrowed over the age of 50 years, with males at 55 percent and females at 45 percent.
- In the distribution of top five procedure codes associated with opioid-related diagnoses in 2016, only one code was shared by all five states under study—HCPCS code G0479, “drug test(s), any number of drug classes, not optical.” The variation in top procedure codes suggested different approaches to treatment of opioid-related diagnoses.
While this study only deals with the U.S., a growing concern with opioid abuse in Western Europe is becoming apparent and lessons from the U.S. may be of interest to public policy makers and to health insurers alike.