High-deductible Health Plans and Nonfatal Opioid Overdose

Med Care. 2023 Sep 1;61(9):601-604. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001886. Epub 2023 Jul 14.


Objectives: Opioid-related overdose is a public health emergency in the United States. Meanwhile, high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) have become more prevalent in the United States over the last 2 decades, raising concern about their potential for discouraging high-need populations, like those with opioid use disorder (OUD), from engaging in care that may mitigate the probability of overdose. This study assesses the impact of an employer offering an HDHP on nonfatal opioid overdose among commercially insured individuals with OUD in the United States.

Research design: We used deidentified insurance claims data from 2007 to 2017 with 97,788 person-years. We used an intent-to-treat, difference-in-differences regression framework to estimate the change in the probability of a nonfatal opioid overdose among enrollees with OUD whose employers began offering an HDHP insurance option during the study period compared with the change among those whose employer never offered an HDHP. We also used an event-study model to account for dynamic time-varying treatment effects.

Results: Across both comparison and treatment groups, 2% of the sample experienced a nonfatal opioid overdose during the study period. Our primary model and robustness checks revealed no impact of HDHP offer on the probability of a nonfatal overdose.

Conclusions: Our study suggests that HDHP offer was not associated with an observed increase in the probability of nonfatal opioid overdose among commercially insured person-years with OUD. However, given the strong evidence that medications for OUD (MOUD) can reduce the risk of overdose, research should explore which facets of insurance design may impact MOUD use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Deductibles and Coinsurance
  • Drug Overdose* / epidemiology
  • Drug Overdose* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Opiate Overdose*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid