Top 10 Most Expensive Chronic Diseases in the US

Chronic diseases and their expensive treatments are the most important factors driving soaring healthcare expenditures in the global healthcare industry. As the world’s largest healthcare market and highest healthcare spending country, the American healthcare payers are facing huge financial pressure due to the most expensive chronic diseases. According to a recent report from the US’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS), US healthcare spending reached a total of $3.3 trillion in 2016, increased by 4.3% from the previous year. While healthcare expenditures per capita in the US also totaled the world’s highest of $10,348 in the same year. The overall share of gross domestic product (GDP) related to healthcare spending in the US was 17.9% in 2016, up from 17.7% in 2015.


A significant part of this massive healthcare expenditure in the US is used in the treatment of the most expensive chronic diseases; their management and prevention. Nowadays, over half of all American adults have one or more chronic disease, as reported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and one in four adults had two or more. 86% of all healthcare spending in the US covers people with chronic medical conditions, while the direct medical costs for chronic diseases and conditions exceed $750 billion annually. The Milken Institute predicted that chronic diseases in the US will increase by 42% by 2023; costing $4.2 trillion in healthcare treatment.


Chronic disease, as defined by National Center for Health Statistics, is a disease that persists for 3 months or more. Chronic diseases generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, nor do they just disappear. Health-damaging behaviors — particularly tobacco and alcohol use, lack of physical activity, and poor eating habits — are major contributors to the leading chronic diseases.


Here are the top 10 most expensive chronic diseases in the US healthcare industry, according to Healthcare Payer Intelligence.


  1. Stroke


Stroke in the US is responsible for medical expenses of $33 billion annually and accounts for 5% of deaths in the country, or an estimated 130,000 deaths per year. Stroke is also one of the leading causes in the country for long-term disability. It is usually caused by other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.


  1. Asthma


Asthma care in the US costs the economy $56 billion per year from direct medical cost as well as losses in work productivity and school absences. Around 8.3% of American population, or 25 million people, have asthma.  Half of all asthma patients have suffered an asthma attack. The cost of asthma per individual in the US was roughly $3,300 dollars in 2003, and costs have been rising since that year.


  1. Arthritis


The total cost of arthritis in the US was an estimated $128 billion in 2016, including $81 billion in direct medical expenses and $47 billion in related losses of productivity and care management. Arthritis affects Nearly 23% of adults in the US, or 54 million people, suffer from arthritis and it is expected to rise to 78 million cases by 2040. Arthritis also occurs with other chronic conditions as many patients are unsure of how to manage their own symptoms.


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  1. Obesity


The US healthcare industry spends around $147 billion on obesity treatment per year. Obesity is also one of the major causes for many other chronic conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. Public health initiatives such as education, promoting access to healthier foods, and delivering preventive care to paediatric patients can help to keep patients at a healthy weight.


  1. Cancer


According to the estimate from CDC and the National Cancer Institute, cancer cost roughly $171 billion a year in the US. Every year, 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with some form of cancer and another 500,000 deaths are caused by cancer. The tremendous cost also comes from early test & detection, promoting awareness about preventative techniques and other public and private activities for cancer prevention — making it one of the most expensive chronic diseases to treat in the US.


Read more: Cancer Will Affect One in Every Two Canadians in Their Lifetime


  1. Alzheimer


CDC reports that 15.9 million Americans provided 18.1 million hours of unpaid care to friends and family with Alzheimer’s and related dementia in 2016, that amount of unpaid care is valued at $223.1 billion. Moreover, direct healthcare expenses for providing Alzheimer’s patients with long-term and hospice care cost $236 billion in the same year. Over 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer and that is the 6th leading cause of death in the country.


  1. Diabetes


Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in the global healthcare industry. In the US, treatment for diabetes cost $245 billion in 2016, representing around 20% of the total healthcare spending in the US. Today, 29 million Americans are known to be living with diabetes and another 86 million live with prediabetes, while diabetes is also the 7th leading cause of death in the US.


Read more: Type 2 Diabetes Can Be Reversed Through a Vegetarian Diet


  1. Alcohol-related health issues


The excessive alcohol use cost the US’ healthcare industry $249 billion as of 2010. In the US, alcohol-related deaths totalled 88,000 annually.  The excessive alcohol use is also believed to shorten the lives of adults by an average of 30 years, as alcohol use is known to cause liver cancer, high blood pressure, and other chronic conditions.


  1. Smoking-related health conditions


The total cost for smoking-related diseases and conditions — like COPD such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema — in the US is over $300 billion per year, the cost consists of healthcare expenses of $170 billion and indirect costs of $156 billion. Smokers can also develop problematic chronic conditions such as cancers, high blood pressure, and cardiac health concerns.

  1. Cardiovascular diseases


One of the most common diseases in America, the costs behind cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in the US’ healthcare industry totals on average $317 billion annually, including $193.7 billion direct medical treatment costs and $123.5 billion in pharmaceuticals, making cardiovascular diseases the highest-cost chronic disease in the US. CDC reports that one adult dies in the US from a CVD related health condition such as a heart attack every 40 seconds. These deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases account for 31% of all US deaths each year. Not just in the US, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is among the most expensive chronic diseases worldwide.



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