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Utah Above National Average for Medicare Opioid Prescription Claims
A screenshort of the interactive mapping tool from U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services shows how Beaver County compares to the state and nation in opioid claims.

The federal government has released a new online mapping toolthat shows Medicare opioid prescription claims in the United States. Utah’s claims are above the national average.

This Medicare data reflects the opioid prescriptions that have been written and filled for patients, mostly 65 years and older in 2013. The report is intended to raise awareness among providers and local public health officials. The national average of Medicare Part D opioid prescription claims is about 5.3%. Utah’s rate is 6.9%. Susannah Burt is prevention program manager for the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. She’s not surprised by these numbers, but she is concerned.

“What this report shows is there is a lot of providers providing a lot of medication to some people, and when we increase the availability and increase access, we increase the risk for addiction, for abuse and dependence,” Burt says.  

Burt says the biggest red flags for her are the places that have few providers but a high number of claims. In Beaver County for instance, there were 14 providers who filled more than 2,700 opioid claims. Burt says there is already an effort underway to educate health providers and raise public awareness, but she says Utahns still need to work on changing behavior. 

“We really need to increase the conversation between doctors and their patients. We need to increase discussion between patients and their families about what’s appropriate what’s good for their community,” Burt says. “There are things that we can do to change the norm in our state.”

In 2013, 274 Utahns died from a prescription opioid overdose. In 2014, preliminary data shows there were 290 deaths.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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