SSIREP Research Workshop: Michael DiNardi (Assistant Professor, Department of Economics)

Discussant: Ashley Buchanan (Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice)

  • Uninsurance and Purchases of Prescription Drugs with High Abuse Potential: Evidence from the Federal Dependent Coverage Mandate
  • Link to paper
  • Date: December 6, 2019
  • Time: 2:00pm
  • Location: Lippitt 402


In recent years, use of prescription drugs with high abuse potential such as central nervous system depressants, opioids, and stimulants rose in the United States. Because health insurance lowers the cost of purchasing prescription drugs, losing coverage may cause individuals to forgo treatment and decrease prescription drug consumption which could reduce health and increase the likelihood of overdose and death if individuals substitute to risky drugs sold on the black market. Using a regression discontinuity design, I estimate the effect of aging out of health insurance from the Affordable Care Act’s dependent coverage mandate at age 26 on legal purchases of prescription central nervous system depressants, opioids, and stimulants. Individuals are 0.8-1 percentage points purchase a prescription central nervous system depressant and 1 percentage point less likely to purchase a prescription opioid after turning 26. These changes are driven by women. A back of the envelope calculation suggests that at age 26, up to 44,000 women may suffer adverse health effects from a reduction in the use of central depressants and up to 35,000 may suffer worse health from a reduction in the use of opioids. Estimated effects for men are generally negative but imprecise.