The toll of the opioid addiction epidemic continues to mount. The latest victim, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, is the business community. Use of prescription painkillers by Americans with employer-based health insurance fell to its lowest point in over ten years; however, the insurance costs to these companies has been on the sharp rise. The report says that from 2004 to 2016, the annual cost of treating addiction and overdose related to prescription and illicit opioids rose more than 800 percent, from less than $0.5 billion to $2.6 billion. More than half of these costs went toward treating children of patients born addicted.
New and Alarming Information
In another surprising finding from the report, prescription opioid use was highest among older adults age 55-64. Geographic data revealed that opioid addiction is highest in the Southern United States. Although states like Ohio, West Virginia and New Hampshire continue to have the largest rates overall. The mounting costs to employers may spell trouble for the prospect of increased treatment access for vulnerable users, as many companies are already collapsing under the economic weight of their coverage obligations. Only a fraction of those who need quality care for opioid addiction actually receive it. This disparity is very often due to financial barriers.
What Can We Learn?
If there is one silver lining from this report, it’s the ten-year low for prescription opioid use among Americans with employee-based coverage. This phenomenon may suggest that, if given access to quality coverage, many who fall victim to opioid addiction will seek and receive treatment. As the body count from opioid addiction in the United States continues to increase, these numbers can’t be ignored, and they tell an illuminating story about what opioid addiction victims versus what they are offered when it comes time to seek treatment and enter recovery.