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“Putting a dollar value on (the epidemic) can be an impetus for more action,” said Corey Rhyan, lead author of the report and senior analyst at Altarum.
The vast majority of the economic burden — $43.2 billion — came from losses in the workforce due to deaths from opioids, the analysis found. Another $12.4 billion of the calculation stemmed from productivity losses from surviving opioid addicts.
In the healthcare industry, costs from the epidemic were concentrated in emergency room visits, hospital admissions, ambulance use and Naloxone use.
In total, the opioid crisis cost insurers $21.4 billion, with Medicaid paying for the largest share at $8.7 billion. Rhyan said after Medicaid expansion in 2014, more people who suffered from opioid abuse became insured.
The epidemic cost Medicare an estimated $6.4 billion and private payers and the uninsured a combined $6.3 billion.
The remaining costs of the opioid epidemic on the economy were criminal justice and education expenditures and child and family assistance spending.
Many 2016 cases of child neglect were associated with parents with opioid addiction, the report notes. Child and family assistance spending related to the epidemic was about $6.1 billion in 2016.
To analyze the economic burden, Altarum pulled from multiple data sources including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.
Rhyan said he hopes to do a follow-up analysis of the prevention and treatment efforts that have been made to combat the epidemic in comparison to what it has cost the economy.
The Trump administration recently came under fire for declaring the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency without calling for new funding to support treatment efforts.
Rhyan also emphasized that the report only takes into account the economic burden. The emotional impact of the crisis on those addicted and their families can’t be monetized but is just as important.
“I think it takes both pieces to tell the story of this epidemic,” he said.