CDC Studies Asthma Burden on U.S. Economy — and Numbers are Striking

CDC Studies Asthma Burden on U.S. Economy — and Numbers are Striking

Asthma costs the U.S. economy nearly $82 billion a year, say researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, one of the nation’s most inclusive sources of healthcare and health insurance data, researchers analyzed expenditures, payment, source and health insurance coverage in the country.

The findings were recently published in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society in an article titled “The Economic Burden of Asthma in the United States, 2008-2013.

“The cost of asthma is one of the most important measures of the burden of the disease,” Tursynbek Nurmagambetov, the study’s lead author, said in a press release. “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 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey included 213,994 respondents over a six-year period and identified 10,237 people treated for asthma — meaning they had at least one medical visit due to the disease or a prescription for at least one asthma therapy filled during a calendar year.

Based on this sample, CDC researchers estimated average annual numbers and costs for the U.S. population  when combining medical expenses, missed work and school days, and deaths.

The results showed that about 15.4 million Americans were treated each year at an annual cost of $81.9 billion. The annual per-person medical cost of asthma was $3,266, of which $1,830 was for prescriptions, $640 for office visits, $529 for hospitalizations, $176 for hospital outpatient visits and $105 for emergency room care, according to the release.

Asthma was also responsible for $3 billion in losses from missed work and school days per year, as well as $29 billion in asthma-related mortality (representing on average 3,168 deaths), and $50.3 billion in medical costs.

Researchers concede that their estimates hardly represent asthma’s total costs to the U.S. economy. People with asthma who had not been treated were excluded. So were non-medical costs associated with the disease, like transportation expenses, time lost waiting for appointments, and productivity loss while at work or school.

“The findings of the paper highlight the critical need to support and further strengthen asthma control strategies,” Nurmagambetov said. “In order to reduce asthma-related ER visits, hospitalizations, absenteeism and mortality, we need to support guidelines-based care, expand self-management education and reduce environmental asthma triggers at homes.”

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