Heart Disease Most Costly Condition

Heart Disease, Cancer Top List of Most Expensive Medical Conditions

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Medical News  Reviewed By Brunilda  Nazario, MD
on Friday, March 14, 2003 
March 14, 2003 -- Treating heart disease cost Americans $58 billion in 1997, making it the single most expensive item on the country's health care bill, followed by cancer, trauma, and mental disorders.

In a new report, researchers analyzed the cost of health care for some of the most common medical problems and came up with the top 15 costliest conditions for the 1997 calendar year. They found that although lung disorders like asthma affected the most Americans (41 million), the cost of treating lung conditions only ranked fifth on the list at $29 billion.

In comparison, the 17 million people diagnosed with heart disease spent $58 billion, 9 million cancer patients spent $46 billion, 37 million who suffered a traumatic injury spent $44 billion, and 20 million with mental disorders shelled out $30 billion.

Not surprising, researchers say the study found that many of the conditions in the top 15 are chronic diseases that require long-term care. Their findings appear in the current issue of Health Affairs.
Rounding out the top 15 were the following conditions (listed with their annual associated price tag and number of Americans affected):

Diabetes, $20 billion, 10 million people
Hypertension (high blood pressure), $18 billion, 27 million people
Stroke-related conditions, $16 billion, 2 million people
Osteoarthritis, $16 billion, 16 million people
Pneumonia, $16 billion, 4 million people
Back problems, $13 billion, 13 million people
Kidney disease, $10 billion, 2 million people
Endocrine disorders, $10 billion, 18 million people
Skin disorders, $9 billion, 20 million people
Infectious diseases, $6 billion, 16 million people

Researchers Joel W. Cohen and Nancy A. Krauss at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality say private insurance paid for about 35% of the expenses for the top five conditions, and Medicare covered nearly 45% of heart disease expenses, 20-25% of cancer costs, and 16% of expenses related to treating mental disorders.

Out-of-pocket expenses were highest for high blood pressure, for which sufferers paid about 30% of their own costs -- largely due to prescription drug expenses.

SOURCE: Health Affairs, Vol. 22 No. 2, 2003.

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