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CDC: U.S. healthcare must improve asthma management to cut costs

The condition is costing the overall economy at least $80 billion per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Asthma costs the U.S. economy more than $80 billion annually in medical expenses, missed work and school days and deaths, according to new research published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, finding asthma is a drag not only on the broader economy but on resource utilization in the healthcare system. 

Particularly because the authors said the study likely underestimated the total cost of asthma to the U.S. economy since their analysis did not include people whose asthma went untreated, the finding are a call to action for hospitals, academic medical centers and tech innovators alike to identify resources to improve disease management and decrease the financial burden of the prevalent condition on patients and providers alike. 

Of 213,994 respondents to the survey over a six-year period, the study identified 10,237 people with treated asthma. The researchers defined treated asthma as having at least one medical encounter for asthma or having a prescription for at least one asthma medicine filled during a calendar year. Based on the pooled sample, researchers estimated average annual numbers and costs for the U.S. population.

In all, about 15.4 million people in the U.S. had treated asthma each year, with the total cost -- including medical care, absenteeism and mortality -- coming in at $81.9 billion. The annual per-person medical cost of asthma was $3,266. Of that, $1,830 was for prescriptions, $640 for office visits, $529 for hospitalizations, $176 for hospital outpatient visits and $105 for emergency room care.

Asthma-related mortality cost $29 billion per year, representing on average 3,168 deaths. Missed work and school days combined cost $3 billion per year, representing 8.7 million workdays and 5.2 million school days lost due to asthma.

According to the authors, the study likely underestimated the total cost of asthma to the U.S. economy because their analysis did not include people whose asthma went untreated.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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