Heart disease, diabetes lead in U.S. health care spending

New study reveals the cost of health care spending in the United States.
By Amy Wallace  |  Dec. 27, 2016 at 3:07 PM
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SEATTLE, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A new study of health care costs found that just 20 conditions make up more than half of all spending on health care in the United States.

The study, which covered 155 conditions, showed the most expensive health condition was diabetes, which totaled $101 billion between diagnoses and treatment costs, and spending increased 36 times faster than the cost of heart disease.

The study tracked personal health care spending over an 18-year period from 1996-2013 and found that a total of $30.1 trillion was spent on health care in the United States during that time.

Heart disease was the second leading health care cost, and the number one cause of death for the past 18 years. Back and neck pain were the third leading health care cost, according to the study, which separated spending on public health programs from personal health care spending.

Aside from the top three conditions, hypertension and injuries from falls made up 18 percent of all personal health spending and totaled $437 billion in 2013. Other conditions among the top 20 included musculoskeletal disorders, such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis.

"While it is well known that the U.S. spends more than any other nation on health care, very little is known about what diseases drive that spending," Dr. Joseph Dieleman, lead author 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."

Roughly $2.1 trillion was spent on the 155 conditions looked at in the study, and approximately $300 billion in costs for over-the-counter medications and privately funded home health care were unaccounted for, meaning the total personal health care costs in the U.S. reached $2.4 trillion in 2013.

"This paper offers private insurers, physicians, health policy experts, and government leaders a comprehensive review," Dr. Christopher Murray, IHME's director, said in a press release. "As the United States explores ways to deliver services more effectively and efficiently, our findings provide important metrics to influence the future, both in short- and long-term planning."

The study was published in JAMA.

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