The Impact of the Opioid Crisis on the Healthcare Industry

The opioid crisis in the United States has reached a fever pitch. More than 115 Americans die every day after overdosing on opioids like prescription pain killers and fentanyl. Opioids are a class of drugs comprised of both illegal drugs (like heroin) and common pain relief drugs prescribed by doctors, such as hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine. These drugs have great capabilities in treating pain, but are extremely addictive.

The CDC has estimated the total cost of prescription opioid misuse alone in the U.S. to be $78.5 billion yearly, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, and treatment. Roughly 29% of patients that are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them and eventually develop an opioid use disorder. 5% of those who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin and there is substantial evidence to show that the majority of heroin use stems from misused prescription drugs.

This goes beyond a simple drug problem, this is a healthcare problem. The number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by doctors reached an all-time peak in 2012, topping at 282 million. This number has since declined to 236 million. Nevertheless, Americans represent about 99.7% of the world’s hydrocodone consumption; hydrocodone being a commonly prescribed opioid.

By extension, the opioid crisis has grown into an issue that is greatly impacting government contractors. Construction workers, in particular, are falling victim to the opioid crisis. In 2015, 92 Wisconsin construction workers died of opioid overdoses. Those deaths cost the state economy $524 million and the epidemic is hitting the construction industry in more states, as it spreads. Construction is one of the most dangerous and physically demanding professions out there and, as a result, construction workers are seeking relief for pain that results from worksite injuries, as well as day-to-day wear and tear on the body.

The reach of the opioid crisis goes well beyond targeting industries in which many government contractors participate. Opioid prescription use and spending has increased for several years among people with large employer coverage. While this number has tapered off following its peak in 2009, the cost of treating opioid addiction among people with large employer coverage has increased to $2.6 billion as of 2016. This trend shows that the cost of treating opioid addiction has risen even though opioid prescription use has fallen.

This comprehensive survey, from April 2018, of the trends of opioid use amongst those under employer coverage yields interesting results. For example, 53% of spending by people with large employer coverage went towards treating opioid addiction and overdose for employees’ children . Until the opioid crisis, as a whole, is resolved it will continue to have major impact on the healthcare industry and employees.

What has the response been to the U.S. Opioid Crisis? How will it impact the healthcare industry? Follow The Boon Blog for a follow-up on this topic and current discussion on all the latest industry news.

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