Penn Study Finds Racial Disparities Within Private Insurance Treatments

A national study from the University of Pennsylvania claims that when it comes to opioid overdose patients, those with private insurance are rarely provided with adequate addiction treatment after leaving the ER. The research also found that Black and Hispanic patients in particular received much less follow-up treatment, (and sometimes none at all).

The study, released in May, examined the records of over 6,500 opioid overdose patients with private insurance coverage who sought treatment at an emergency department between 2011 and 2016.

Records showed that Black patients were half as likely as white patients to receive treatments in the three months following their overdoses. Hispanic patients were also less likely than the white patients to receive follow-up treatment.

“This study shows that even people with insurance may still have barriers to treatment,” said Austin Kilaru, the study’s lead author, an attending physician at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, and a fellow in the National Clinician Scholars Program at Penn. “Just the fact of having insurance may not empower you to make the leap [to treatment].”

Kilaru and his team focused their study on privately insured Americans, as compared to those on Medicaid, because private insurance is usually seen as a marker of wealth and/or status. He said they wanted to see if private insurance coverage could potentially level out the racial disparities in American health care...

“We think of patients with Medicaid generally having worse access to care because of their insurance, especially around substance use treatment," he said. "There are more minorities in the Medicaid population, and we were wondering whether you could correct those disparities if you gave patients an even playing field with the kind of insurance they had. That wasn’t the case.”

While it's still unclear what exactly is causing these racial disparities within the American healthcare system, Kilaru said their study can be a starting point.

“It is important to better understand and account for these factors when designing systems that seek to improve engagement and equity in treatment,” the authors wrote.

Read the full study on the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Resources to get to help! ProWellness Academy says that Opiate addiction in the USA is currently effecting millions of people. The withdrawal symptoms from opioid addiction can be more difficult than any other illicit drug. Medicated-assisted treatment (MAT) works to assist patients medically in overcoming their withdrawal symptoms. ProWellness Academy works to Increase the availability of Outpatient Counseling + subsequent MAT for its patients by providing a variety of support services for each patient that are culturally and geographically desirable for each.

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