Follow the Money: Most Expensive Condition in the U.S.

Follow the Money: Most Expensive Condition in the U.S.

As we’ve reported (for example here, here, and here), diabetes is a major health and cost concern for businesses and employees.

Now, as businesses and individuals continually consider ways to manage health care costs — and as well-run workplace wellness programs continue to present opportunities to help manage health issues and costs — a new study follows the money.

The JAMA Network published an “original investigation” titled “US Spending on Personal Health Care and Public Health, 1996-2013.”

The study notes: “US health care spending has continued to increase, and now accounts for more than 17% of the US economy. Despite the size and growth of this spending, little is known about how spending on each condition varies by age and across time.”

Its stated objective: “To systematically and comprehensively estimate US spending on personal health care and public health, according to condition, age and sex group, and type of care.”

One of the biggest health costs? Diabetes.

The study notes: “From 1996 through 2013, $30.1 trillion of personal health care spending was disaggregated by 155 conditions, age and sex group, and type of care. Among these 155 conditions, diabetes had the highest health care spending in 2013, with an estimated $101.4 billion (uncertainty interval [UI], $96.7 billion-$106.5 billion) in spending, including 57.6% (UI, 53.8%-62.1%) spent on pharmaceuticals and 23.5% (UI, 21.7%-25.7%) spent on ambulatory care.”

Another major cost: Ischemic heart disease

“Ischemic heart disease accounted for the second-highest amount of health care spending in 2013, with estimated spending of $88.1 billion (UI, $82.7 billion-$92.9 billion), and low back and neck pain accounted for the third-highest amount, with estimated health care spending of $87.6 billion (UI, $67.5 billion-$94.1 billion).”

Other useful notes:

  • “Personal health care spending increased for 143 of the 155 conditions from 1996 through 2013.”
  • “Spending on low back and neck pain and on diabetes increased the most over the 18 years, by an estimated $57.2 billion (UI, $47.4 billion-$64.4 billion) and $64.4 billion (UI, $57.8 billion-$70.7 billion), respectively.”
  • Chronic diseases are important to watch: “Some of the top 20 conditions of health care spending in 2013 were chronic diseases with relatively high disease prevalence and health burden. These conditions included diabetes, IHD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cerebrovascular disease, all of which have an underlying health burden nearly exclusively attributable to modifiable risk factors. For example, diabetes was 100% attributed to behavioral or metabolic risk factors that included diet, obesity, high fasting plasma glucose, tobacco use, and low physical activity. Similarly, IHD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cerebrovascular disease each have more than 78% of their disease burden attributable to similar risks.”