Asthma’s Cost to U.S. Health-Care System Rises to $82 Billion

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in Asthma, News
Published: January 23, 2018

Asthma-related medical expenses are estimated to cost the U.S. health-care system $82 billion a year, according to a study by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The analysis included spending on doctor’s office and hospital visits, missed work and school days, prescription medication, visits to the emergency room and deaths related to the chronic respiratory condition.

The overall figure is likely to be even higher because the study examined costs of “treated asthma,” which was defined as respondents who “had at least one medical or pharmaceutical encounter or claim associated with asthma.” It did not consider those who haven’t been treating their asthma.

Researchers used the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey – which gathers data about health-care use and coverage across the U.S. – and determined that roughly 15.4 million people were treated for asthma between 2008 and 2013, costing the economy $81.9 billion. The average medical cost per asthma patient was $3,266, of which:

  • Prescriptions: $1,830
  • Hospitalizations: $529
  • Office visits: $640
  • Hospital outpatient visits: $176
  • Emergency room care: $105

The following are also important to note:

  • Asthma-related deaths cost $29 billion per year.
  • Missed work and school days, combined, cost $3 billion per year.
  • A larger proportion of people with asthma lived in poverty or near the poverty line.
  • Americans with no health insurance had lower per person total medical expenses compared to those who were insured.
  • Women and African-Americans were more likely to have asthma.

The estimate of $82 billion is a significant increase from the past results of this survey, which had pegged overall asthma health-care costs at $56 billion for the period of 2002-2007.

“The cost of asthma is one of the most important measures of the burden of the disease,” said Tursynbek Nurmagambetov, lead study author and CDC health economist, in a statement. “Cost studies can influence health policy decisions and help decision makers understand the scale, seriousness and implications of asthma, so that resources can be identified to improve disease management and reduce the burden of asthma.”

The study was published on January 12 in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society. See it in full here.