Study Finds that Diabetes is Most Expensive Health Condition in U.S. , Heart Disease Second
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Study Finds that Diabetes is Most Expensive Health Condition in U.S. , Heart Disease Second

The cost of diabetes is growing 36 times faster than that of heart disease

December 28, 2016

A new study has found that diabetes is the health condition that contributes the most to healthcare spending in the United States.

Diagnosis and treatment of the condition costs $101 billion every year, reports ConsumerAffairs. The cost is growing 36 times more quickly than the cost of heart disease, though heart disease is still the leading cause of death.

"While it is well known that the US spends more than any other nation on health care, very little is known about what diseases drive that spending," said Dr. Joseph Dieleman, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. "IHME is trying to fill the information gap so that decision-makers in the public and private sectors can understand the spending landscape, and plan and allocate health resources more effectively."

The study found that more than half of all the money spent in the U.S. on healthcare goes to diagnose and treat just 20 conditions.

The primary age group afflicted by diabetes and heart disease was the 65 and older crowd. The third-most-expensive condition--lower back and neck pain--mainly affected working-age consumers.

These three categories, together with high blood pressure and injuries caused by falls, account for 18 percent of all the money spent on personal healthcare, reaching a total of $437 billion in 2013.

The study made a distinction between money spent on public health programs from that spent on personal healthcare, including individual out-of-pocket costs as well as spending done by private and government insurance programs. One hundred and fifty-five conditions were covered in the study.

Dieleman also estimates that about $300 billion in healthcare costs, like the costs for over-the-counter medicines and privately-funded home healthcare, is still unaccounted for, showing that the total of personal healthcare costs in the U.S. went as high as $2.4 trillion in 2013.

There were other well-known and expensive conditions among the top 20, including carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and pregnancy and postpartum care.

Other key findings from the study included:

  • At more than $31,000 per person, women ages 85 and older spent the most per person in 2013. More than half of this amount was spent in nursing facilities, while 40 percent went toward cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer's disease, and falls.
  • Men ages 85 and older spent less per person in 2013, spending only $24,000 per person. Thirty-seven percent of this went toward nursing facilities, partly because women live longer on average and men have a spouse at home who can care for them more often.
  • Even with these amounts, less than 10 percent out of all personal healthcare spending is on nursing care facilities. Less than five percent is on emergency department care. Alzheimer's and stroke are the conditions that lead to the most spending in nursing care facilities, while falls lead to the most spending in emergency departments.

The top 10 most expensive health conditions in 2013 were:

  1. Diabetes--$101.4 billion
  2. Ischemic heart disease--$88.1 billion
  3. Low back and neck pain--$87.6 billion
  4. High blood pressure--$83.9 billion
  5. Injuries from falls--$76.3 billion
  6. Depressive disorders--$71.1 billion
  7. Oral-related problems--$66.4 billion
  8. Vision and hearing problems--$59 billion
  9. Skin related problems such as acne--$55.7 billion
  10. Pregnancy and postpartum care--$55.6 billion