Thursday, June 22, 2017

Where doctors have a high rate of privately insured patients who abuse painkillers, county-by-county

After analyzing hundreds of millions of commercial health insurance claims, researchers have found that diagnoses increased six-fold from 2012 to 2016, from 241,000 patients to 1.4 million, and have released a county-by-county map of areas in which doctors see the most patients for opioid use.
Map by Amino; click on it to view a larger version
Researchers for Amino, a healthcare data company that focuses on transparency, released their findings on Sunday, according to Sohan Murthy, a researcher for the company.

Murthy and others analyzed 205 million private health-insurance claims involving patients diagnosed with "opioid use disorder," a newly updated classification that considers severity of addiction and removes the distinction between "abuse" and "dependence," Murthy writes.

The team also looked at 808,000 Medicare Part D claims involving prescriptions of buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid use disorder, as well as data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on overdose deaths related to opioids.
Map by Amino; click on it to view a larger version
The records examined were for patients with private insurance, a demonstration of how pervasive the opioid problem has become. "Opioid use isn’t just a problem for Medicaid—many of these 1.4 million patients are on health insurance plans sponsored by their employers," Murthy notes.

"In 2005, the CDC reported that 14,918 Americans died of drug overdoses related to opioids. In 2015, 33,091 opioid overdose deaths were recorded—more than double over 10 years. In fact, the New York Times recently estimated that overdose deaths involving all types of drugs likely exceeded 59,000 in 2016—the largest annual jump in overdose deaths ever recorded (there were 52,404 in 2015)," he writes.

Kentucky has nine of the top 10 counties nationwide for doctors who treat the highest volume of patients for opioid use disorder. New Mexico and Florida don't fare much better. New Mexico has one of the nation’s highest drug overdose rates and recently passed a law requiring all police officers to carry overdose kits. Albuquerque has been added to a growing list of cities receiving federal aid for its opioid and heroin crisis, Murthy reports. "Counties in Florida are similarly affected," he writes. "The state is home to Palm Beach County, sometimes referred to as the 'Recovery Capital of America.' Local officials estimate that the city of Delray Beach . . . (with only 67,000 residents) has more than 800 treatment facilities."

The problem with treating opioid use disorder, Murthy explains, is that it is complicated by the fact that it often goes hand-in-hand with other medical issues, such as hepatitis C, chronic pain, depression and alcoholism.

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