Survey shows rising rates of treated disease prevalence increase health care costs in U.S

Published on May 7, 2013 at 9:40 AM · No Comments

The increasing proportion of the population that received treatment for a specific medical condition - called "treated disease prevalence" -- along with higher spending per treated case accounted for most of the rise in health care spending in the U.S. between 1987 and 2009, according to a recent analysis.

In the analysis, published in the May edition of Health Affairs, Kenneth E. Thorpe, PhD, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, analyzed data from the National Medical Expenditure Survey and the Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys from 1987-2009 to investigate the roles that the rise in treated disease prevalence, spending per treated case, obesity, and increased treatment intensity played in the increase in health care spending.

The complete report titled, "Treated Disease Prevalence and Spending per Treated Case Drove Most of the Growth in Health Care Spending in 1987-2009," will be part of a discussion at the Health Affairs briefing on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 from 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

The paper examined surveys that included detailed information on self-reported medical conditions, monthly markers of health insurance coverage, patients' demographic characteristics, spending, respondent data, medical information, and use of service.

Thorpe determined that 50.8 percent of the rise in health care spending among adults ages 18 years and older was associated with rising rates of treated disease prevalence, while 39.0 percent of that rise was associated with rising spending per treated case.

"In order to determine ways to reduce the rate of growth in health care spending, we must first have a clear understanding of what factors account for the increase," says Thorpe. "Though there have been few attempts to identify these factors, they are important due to the differences from the main drivers of cost growth during previous decades."

According to the examination of studies, Thorpe concluded three major findings that account for the rise in health care spending in the past 20 years:

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