Chronic Conditions – What are they costing you?

Chronic conditions – those ongoing, generally incurable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and asthma – are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States.  More than 40 percent of the population, 133 million Americans, have at least one chronic disease.  When left undiagnosed or untreated, chronic diseases can be disabling, reducing quality of life, and even causing death.

Think about this – diabetes is the leading cause of lower limb amputations in the United States as a consequence of diabetes, with 108,000 adults losing a toe, foot or leg every year. Worse, seven of every 10 deaths in the United States are due to chronic conditions – killing more than 1.7 million Americans every year.  Heart disease and cancer combined account for  45 percent of all deaths.

The kicker to this is that chronic conditions are often preventable, or at least manageable through early detection, smoking cessation, improved diet, physical activity and treatment therapy. But many people either don’t know or don’t care that they have health risk factors for these diseases.  About half of US adults (47 percent) have at least one of the following major risk factors for heart disease or stroke:

  • uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • uncontrolled high LDL cholesterol
  • current smokers

And nearly 90% consume too much sodium, increasing the risk of high blood pressure.

More than 37 million adults—close to 16 percent of the population—said they smoked cigarettes in 2016. Cigarette smoking accounts for more than 480,000 deaths each year.  Each day, more than 3,200 kids younger than 18 smoke their first cigarette, and an additional 2,100 kids and young adults who smoke every now and then, eventually become daily smokers.

And we haven’t even discussed the cost!  People with chronic conditions are the most frequent users of health care in the U.S. and are responsible for 86 percent of all health care spending.  People with chronic conditions account for:

  • 81% of hospital admissions
  • 91% of all prescriptions filled
  • 76% of all physician visits

Chronic conditions are crippling employers’ health plans and employees’ wallets.

Let’s take a look at diabetes.  The total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2017 was $327 billion, a 26 percent increase over a five-year period. That includes:

  • $237 billion in direct medical costs
  • $90 billion in decreased productivity, which includes costs associated with people being absent from work, being less productive while at work, or not being able to work at all because of diabetes.

So far, all of these statistics have been on the national level.  In the next few weeks we will be taking a closer look at chronic disease from our own book of business and sharing the nitty gritty details on what employers and employees mostly located in and around the Dayton/Cincinnati/Columbus areas are spending on chronic disease.  And just how much is that?  For a 12-month lookback as of April 2018, 42 percent of total spend by employers and employees was spent on chronic conditions.  This equates to $276,431,227.  That’s not chump change.  Stay tuned.

By Kelly McCall, Strategic Data Analytics Manager at McGohan Brabender