To Fight Superbugs, Health Insurers Play an Important Role

Nationwide experts and health plan representatives meet to discuss how to best improve antibiotic use

Navigate to:

To Fight Superbugs, Health Insurers Play an Important Role
Getty Images

In the U.S., approximately a third of antibiotics prescribed in outpatient settings are unnecessary, and further research shows that patients often do not receive the recommended antibiotic for their condition. Such inappropriate prescribing accelerates the emergence of antibiotic resistance and puts us all at risk.  

To address this issue, representatives from U.S. health insurance companies, health systems, state health departments, academia, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came together to explore effective ways that insurers can support efforts to improve antibiotic use in doctor’s offices and other outpatient settings. The meeting, held in Atlanta from Jan. 22-23, was hosted by The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of Pew’s ongoing work to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and preserve the effectiveness of life-saving antibiotics.

Because insurers have access to medical and pharmacy claims data, they are well positioned to support efforts to assess antibiotic prescribing practices and supply providers with feedback, which is an essential component of CDC’s core elements of outpatient antibiotic stewardship. Specifically, insurers can use this data to identify high prescribers within their networks and then take steps—such as providing tailored reports to providers on their prescribing practices, sharing educational materials with these individuals, and other proven stewardship strategies—to encourage more appropriate prescribing.

In order to support efforts from health insurers, experts at the meeting focused on identifying effective approaches that have already been implemented by insurers, health systems, and other health care stakeholders to track and report antibiotic prescribing. They also explored challenges they anticipate in implementing antibiotic stewardship.

As a follow-up to the January meeting, CDC, Pew, and other partners will collaborate on creating tools to help payers, health systems, and others implement data-driven antibiotic stewardship initiatives. Pew looks forward to continued collaboration with CDC, insurers, and other stakeholders on finding solutions to reduce inappropriate antibiotic use and combat antibiotic resistance.

David Hyun, M.D., is a senior officer and Rachel Zetts, M.P.H., is an officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ antibiotic resistance project.

Spotlight on Mental Health


New Standards Require Antibiotic Stewardship in Outpatient Settings

Quick View

A leading nonprofit health care certification organization—The Joint Commission—will require antibiotic stewardship efforts in the outpatient facilities it accredits starting in January.

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies


Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.