Estimates of charges associated with emergency department and hospital inpatient care for opioid abuse-related events

Hitesh S Chandwani, Scott A Strassels, Karen L Rascati, Kenneth A Lawson, James P Wilson
Journal of Pain & Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy 2013, 27 (3): 206-13
The economic burden of prescription opioid abuse is substantial; however, no study has estimated the monetary burden of hospital services (emergency department [ED] and inpatient) using a single, nationally representative database. We sought to estimate total and average (adjusted for demographic and clinical factors) charges billed for opioid abuse-related events, and magnitude of difference in charges between ED visits resulting in inpatient admission to the same hospital and treat-and-release ED visits in the United States. We used the 2006, 2007, and 2008 files of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project's Nationwide Emergency Departments Sample (HCUP-NEDS) to identify events and charges assigned opioid abuse, dependence, or poisoning ICD-9-CM (International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification) diagnosis codes (304.0X, 304.7X, 305.5X, 965.00, 965.02, 965.09). Using methods to account for the complex sampling design of the NEDS and a log-linked gamma regression model, we estimated national total and mean charges (in 2010 USD). Total charges were $9.8, $9.6, and $9.5 billion for 2006, 2007, and 2008, respectively. Medicaid-covered events had the highest total charges ($3 billion), followed by events covered by Medicare ($2 billion) for each year. The national estimate of adjusted, mean, per-event charges, was $18,891 (95% confidence interval [CI] = $18,167-$19,616). Compared with events covered by private insurance, mean charges for Medicare- and Medicaid-covered events were higher (t = 28.14, P < .001; t = 6.42, P < .001, respectively), whereas self-paid events had significantly lower charges (t = -11.14, P < .001). ED visits resulting in subsequent inpatient admission had approximately 6 times higher charges than treat-and-release visits. This study provides estimates of differences in hospital costs of opioid abuse by insurance status, resulting in a better understanding of the economic burden of opioid abuse on the health care system.

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