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Contact: Joe Martin
717-232-6787 or


Harrisburg, PA – June 13, 2018 – The number of hospital admissions for overdose of pain medication decreased 2.2% between 2016 and 2017. There was an overall increase of 12.7% in the number of heroin overdose admissions between 2016 and 2017—the lowest increase seen in recent years, as average annual increases were about 24% between 2011 and 2016.

The results are part of a research brief released today by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4). “These findings continue to stress the alarming impact the opioid problem has on Pennsylvania families,” stated Joe Martin, PHC4’s Executive Director.

Nearly 1 in 10 patients hospitalized for heroin overdose (9.6%) died in the hospital—up slightly from 9.3% in 2016. For pain medication overdose patients, 5% (or 1 in 20) died in the hospital—up from 2.9% in 2016.

Hospital admissions for opioid overdose amounted to an estimated $32 million in hospital payments in 2017—an estimated $16.4 million for heroin overdose and $15.6 million for overdose of pain medication. On average heroin overdose patients and pain medication overdose patients stayed in the hospital 3.4 days and 4.4 days, respectively—for a total of 13,642 days in the hospital in 2017.

The average age of patients admitted for heroin overdose was 33. The average age of patients admitted for overdose of pain medication was 53.

Of the 1,753 hospital admissions for heroin overdose in 2017, Medicaid was the anticipated payer for 63%, commercial insurance for 18.9% and Medicare for 10.3%, with 7.7% of the patients having no insurance or another type of insurance.

Of the 1,747 hospital admissions for pain medication overdose, Medicare was the anticipated payer for 42.1%, Medicaid for 33.6% and commercial insurance for 19.3%, with 5% of patients having no insurance or another type of insurance.

The brief also examines population-based rates over the two-year period 2016 and 2017. Statewide, there were 64.6 admissions per 100,000 Pennsylvania residents hospitalized for opioid overdose (combining both heroin and pain medication overdoses). The rate for lower income residents was 122.0—almost double the statewide rate. The rate was 113.7 for residents living in areas where less than 10% of the population has a bachelor’s degree. Males had a higher rate (77.8) than females (52.1). The rates for black (non-Hispanic), white (non-Hispanic), and Hispanic residents were 67.5, 65.9 and 50.4, respectively.

County-level population-based rates are also included in the brief.

The brief is available on PHC4’s website at You can also link to it through social media on Facebook and Twitter.

PHC4 is an independent state agency charged with collecting, analyzing and reporting information that can be used to improve the quality and restrain the cost of health care in Pennsylvania.

225 Market Street, Suite 400
Harrisburg, PA 17101

Phone: (717) 232-6787
Fax: (717) 232-3821