15 medical conditions driving cost increases – many can be managed

October 22nd, 2004 by Julie Ferguson

The August issue of Health Affairs carried a recent study issued by Emory University revealing that more than half the overall growth in cost of health-care spending could be attributed to the 15 most costly medical conditions. The study notes that many of these conditions are preventable or manageable conditions through interventions.
The 15 costly medical conditions (chart) accounted for 56 percent of the growth in health-care spending between 1987 and 2000; five accounted for more than 30 percent of the spending.
The study looked to the cost of treatment and prevalance as attributes in the change in spending (chart). In 8 of these conditions, the cost of the care itself primarily accounted for the rise in spending; in the other 7 conditions, increased costs were more associated with an increase in prevalance, presenting opportunities for intevention.
“For several conditions, the rise in the epidemiological prevalence appears to be responsible for the growth in treated cases. This result highlights the importance of developing interventions designed to reverse the rise in disease prevalence. This appears to be the case for pulmonary disease, which accounted for nearly 8 percent of the rise in spending over the decade. Prevalence and death rates for asthma have been rising since 1975. Factors accounting for the rise in asthma and other pulmonary disorders are not well understood. They have been linked to environmental exposures (both indoor, such as dust mites and smoking, and outdoor air quality). In addition, diabetes accounted for up to 3 percent of the rise in health care spending, with about 50 percent of the rise traced to a rise in treated prevalence. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a continued rise in diabetes prevalence that now exceeds eighteen million among adults alone. The rise in the treated prevalence of diabetes closely tracks the substantial rise in obesity in the population. Since effective treatments exist for both of these conditions, however, it would be a mistake to see increased spending to treat them in a completely negative light.”
As the work force ages, general health concerns are likely to have a greater and greater impact on the workers compensation bottom line; many health conditions can increase a person’s risk for work injuries and can impede recovery when injuries do occur. Work wellness and preventive programs can help to screen, intervene, and manage many of the conditions cited on this list, and can have a salutory effect on occupational disability programs as well.

Tags: , , , ,