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Race, Ethnicity, and Insurance: the Association with Opioid Use in a Pediatric Hospital Setting



This study examined the association between race/ethnicity and health insurance payer type with pediatric opioid and non-opioid ordering in an inpatient hospital setting.


Cross-sectional inpatient encounter data from June 2013 to June 2018 was retrieved from a pediatric children's hospital in Southern California (N = 55,944), and statistical analyses were performed to determine associations with opioid ordering.


There was a significant main effect of race/ethnicity on opioid and non-opioid orders. Physicians ordered significantly fewer opioid medications, but a greater number of non-opioid medications, for non-Hispanic African American children than non-Hispanic Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, and non-Hispanic White pediatric patients. There was also a main effect of health insurance payer type on non-opioid orders. Patients with government-sponsored plans (e.g., Medi-Cal, Medicare) received fewer non-opioid prescriptions compared with patients with both HMO and PPO coverage. Additionally, there was a significant race/ethnicity by insurance interaction on opioid orders. Non-Hispanic White patients with "other" insurance coverage received the greatest number of opioid orders. In non-Hispanic African American patients, children with PPO coverage received fewer opioids than those with government-sponsored and HMO insurance. For non-Hispanic Asian patients, children with PPO were prescribed more opioids than those with government-sponsored and HMO coverage.


Findings suggest that the relationship between race/ethnicity, insurance type, and physician decisions opioid prescribing is complex and multifaceted. Given that consistency in opioid prescribing should be seen regardless of patient background characteristics, future studies should continue to assess and monitor unequitable differences in care.

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