People who suffer arthritis also suffer double the amount of medical costs

The expenses for medical care for those with arthritis are at least double the amount spent by those without this debilitating disease, according to research presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

Researchers recently utilized results from the 1999-2000 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) to track expenditures for patients with arthritis within a national sample of 4,176 individuals, age 45 years and older. MEPS had followed these individuals for two years, collecting information about chronic diseases including arthritis, demographics, and functional limitations in daily living such as walking, dressing, bending and grasping. The health care expenditures monitored included office and hospital-based care, home health care, dental services, vision aids, other medical equipment and services, and prescribed medicines. To determine which expenses were related to arthritis, researchers examined three questions: 1) Do persons with arthritis have higher expenditures than those without? 2) Does arthritis results in increased costs after adjusting for differences in age, race, and gender, economics and the presence of other chronic conditions? 3) What contributes to high arthritis expenditures?

Data tabulated from these questions demonstrated that total health care expenditures for persons with arthritis are at least doubled when compared to the general population for all levels of expenditures examined. Even after adjusting for age, race, gender, other health conditions and economic status, expenditures for those with arthritis remained at least 1.5 times higher.

The greatest factor contributing to the higher costs for arthritis sufferers was found to be limitations in daily activities. These functional limitations were experienced by two in every five respondents, more than three times the frequency of limitations among persons without arthritis.

“Arthritis-related functional limitation is a major contributor to high U.S. health care costs,” said Orit Almagor, MA, Northwestern University, Institute for Health Services Research and Policy Studies, Chicago, Illinois, and an investigator in the study. “Public health and clinical approaches that prevent and treat arthritis and preserve daily activities in persons with arthritis should be pursued for both potential cost savings and improved quality of life for patients.”

The American College of Rheumatology is the professional organization for rheumatologists and health professionals who share a dedication to healing, preventing disability and curing arthritis and related rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases.

For more information on the ACR's annual meeting, see http://www.rheumatology.org/annual.

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