Cost of caring for babies born addicted to opioids is skyrocketing


WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - As the adult opioid addiction crisis continues to sweep the nation, there is a growing number of babies born addicted to the drug.

Every 25 minutes, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal, as more mothers take prescription opioid painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin while pregnant, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"We assumed for a long time it was a small problem and when people began to look they began to find it was a bigger problem than we ever anticipated," said Dr. Stephen Minton, a neonatologist at Utah Valley's Newborn Intensive Care Unit.

The cost of taking care of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is skyrocketing. A new study by the scientific journal Addiction found in 2012, it cost U.S. hospitals $316 million - a five-fold increase from 2003.

"Last year we saw over 1,000 clinic visits just for neonatal abstinence syndrome; 400 of these were new patient visits," said Dr. Jenny McAllister, of Cincinnati Children's NAS Clinic.

Average hospital costs for each newborn with NAS are nearly $67,000 - about 19 times more than treating other newborns.

Babies with NAS require, on average, a 15-day longer stay in the hospital than babies without opioid addiction.

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that would use Medicaid to help treat babies exposed to opioids. The senators have deep concerns about the current Republican health care bill to repeal Obamacare, since their states rely on Medicaid expansion that was made under the law that helps with opioid addiction.

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