On average, insurers spend $3,435 a year on an individual patient, but for those with an opioid dependence or abuse diagnosis, that amount jumps to $19,333. Those numbers reflect what insurers actually paid.
This article first appeared September 12, 2016 on Kaiser Health News
The nation's ongoing opioid problem comes with staggering physical and emotional costs to patients and families. But the dollar cost to the health system has been harder to peg. Now a new report shows a more than 1,300 percent rise in spending by health insurers in a four-year period on patients with a diagnosis of opioid dependence or abuse.
From 2011 to 2015, insurers' payments to hospitals, laboratories, treatment centers and other medical providers for these patients grew from $32 million to $446 million — a 1,375 percent increase.
While that's a small portion of the overall spending on medical care in the United States, the rapid rise is cause for concern, says Robin Gelburd, president of Fair Health, a nonprofit databank that provides cost information to the health industry and consumers.
"That really shows the stress on the health system and the impact on the individuals," said Gelburd.
The Fair Health study found a sharp difference in how much insurers spend on individual patients with such a diagnosis.
On average, insurers spend $3,435 a year on an individual patient, but for those with an opioid dependence or abuse diagnosis, that amount jumps to $19,333. Those numbers reflect what insurers actually paid. The report also includes data on what providers charged, amounts that are lowered by their contracts with insurers.
Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.