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Insurance Claims For Opioids Skyrocket 1,459 Percent In NY Suburbs

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Private insurance claims for opioid abuse and dependence are skyrocketing in the suburbs of New York, far outpacing claims in New York City and the rest of the state.

Private claims shot up an alarming 1,459 percent between 2007 and 2014 across Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties, which represents roughly 21 percent of the state population. An analysis by FAIR Health, a national non-profit advocating healthcare transparency, found the rate of private opioid abuse claims nearly tripled the overall rate across the state, which increased by 487 percent over the same time period.

“The New York statistics are consistent with the national trends which indicate that opioid abuse and dependence are widespread and are affecting every group in the society,” Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Because cases of opioid abuse are highly correlated with an initial introduction to opioids through prescriptions to treat pain, the breadth of the problem is not surprising.”

Overall, private insurance claims for addiction treatment and emergency room visits related to opioids increased in all parts of the state. FAIR Health’s analysis also highlighted other troubling data related to drug use in New York. Pregnancy drug dependence, which includes opiate-based painkillers, rose by 2,600 percent between 2007 and 2014 in New York City.

“The opioid crisis is substantial and growing; continued focus should be on both prevention and treatment strategies,” said Gelburd. “It has been reported widely that many individuals initially affected by opioid dependence substitute heroin when opioids become too expensive or their access to the opioids is restricted.”

Gelburd says there are many factors behind why the opioid epidemic appears to be worse in the suburbs, the most likely being that far more people receiving opioid treatment in the city receive insurance through medicaid. Representatives at FAIR Health, which has the largest private health claims database in the U.S., also posit wealthy individuals in the city may not be using insurance for their opioid related treatments.

Experts stress the need for greater access to addiction treatment counseling and greater education of the population about the dangers posed by opiate-based medication. Officials with the DEA say four out of five heroin addicts started with painkillers. (RELATED: Comey Says US ‘Cannot Arrest Our Way Out’ Of Opioid Epedemic’)

“Treatment is required to address abuse and dependence and both public and private health insurance programs will need to identify effective protocols and resources to provide such treatment,” Gelburd told TheDCNF. “Effective triage protocols in the emergency rooms of hospitals, for example, can be adopted that advise patients of appropriate treatment options.”

Painkiller and heroin abuse is rampant in New York City and across the state, claiming 2,431 lives in 2015. The state experienced a 135.7 percent increase in synthetic opioid and heroin deaths between 2014 and 2015, one of the largest increases for a state.

A record 33,000 Americans died from opioid related overdoses in 2015, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid deaths contributed to the first drop in U.S. life expectancy since 1993 and eclipsed deaths from motor vehicle accidents in 2015.

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