The Effect of Substance Use Disorder Treatment Use on Crime: Evidence from Public Insurance Expansions and Health Insurance Parity Mandates

40 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2014

See all articles by Hefei Wen

Hefei Wen

Emory University

Jason Hockenberry

Emory University

Janet Cummings

Emory University

Date Written: October 2014

Abstract

We examine the effect of increasing the substance use disorder (SUD) treatment rate on reducing violent and property crime rates, based on county-level panels of SUD treatment and crime data between 2001 and 2008 across the United States. To address the potential endogeneity of the SUD treatment rate with respect to crime rate, we exploit the exogenous variation in the SUD treatment rate induced by two state-level policies, namely insurance expansions under the Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability (HIFA) waivers and parity mandates for SUD treatment. Once we address the endogeneity issue, we are able to demonstrate an economically meaningful reduction in the rates of robbery, aggravated assault and larceny theft attributable to an increased SUD treatment rate. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that a 10 percent relative increase in the SUD treatment rate at an average cost of $1.6 billion yields a crime reduction benefit of $2.5 billion to $4.8 billion. Our findings suggest that expanding insurance coverage and benefits for SUD treatment is an effective policy lever to improve treatment use, and the improved SUD treatment use can effectively and cost-effectively promote public safety through crime reduction.

Suggested Citation

Wen, Hefei and Hockenberry, Jason and Cummings, Janet, The Effect of Substance Use Disorder Treatment Use on Crime: Evidence from Public Insurance Expansions and Health Insurance Parity Mandates (October 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20537. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2505843

Hefei Wen (Contact Author)

Emory University ( email )

201 Dowman Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

Jason Hockenberry

Emory University ( email )

201 Dowman Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

Janet Cummings

Emory University ( email )

201 Dowman Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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