The number of claims made to private health insurers that include a diagnosis of opioid dependence rose by more than 3,200% in the past decade, according to a report released Tuesday.
The not-for-profit group FAIR Health used data gleaned from ICD-9 diagnostic codes used for insurance claim forms. Researchers found adults between ages 19 and 35 were by far the most diagnosed age group, accounting for 69% of claim lines for opioid dependence during the study period. The same age group composed the majority, or 78%, of heroin overdoses.
Heroin use among women grew by 100% over the time period while its use among men grew by 50%. While the rate of death from opioid overdose is higher among men, women were more likely to experience an opioid overdose, according to the analysis. Claim lines where the diagnosis was related to drug dependence in pregnant women rose 511% from 2007 to 2014.
“The current opioid crisis in the United States affects most demographic groups, including, notably, the privately insured,” the study concluded. “To resolve the crisis, participation from all healthcare stakeholders will be necessary—federal, state and local governments; insurers; employers; physicians, hospitals and other providers; researchers; community leaders; and consumers.”
The report's findings show how the current opioid abuse epidemic has disproportionately affected white, middle-class America. While 71% of whites have private insurance, only 47% of blacks and 39% of Hispanics carry the same coverage, according to a 2013 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
A 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry found that nearly 90% of those who said they began using opioids over the past decade were white, mostly driven by the widespread use of prescription painkillers.