Chronic Diseases Cost Economy More Than $1.3 Trillion Annually
The cost to the U.S. economy of treatment and lost productivity caused by chronic illnesses among U.S. residents is more than $1.3 trillion per year, and if current trends are not reversed, costs could reach $6 trillion by 2050, according to a report released Tuesday by the Milken Institute, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/3).
The report found the cost of treating seven common chronic illnesses -- cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions and mental illness, which together affect a total of 109 million U.S. residents -- is at least $277 billion per year.
The cost of lost productivity amounts to about $1.1 trillion (Kivlan, CongressDaily, 10/3). Economic losses generated by caregivers are included in the productivity deficit (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/3).
The report also addresses the costs of "presenteeism," which occurs when an employee comes to work but performs at a lower-than-expected level because of a chronic condition. The cost of presenteeism accounts for about 79.1% of total estimated productivity loss stemming from chronic conditions, according to the report.
The report calls for a plan that would promote prevention and early intervention by providing incentives to health care providers. It also calls for reduced use of tobacco products and abuse of alcohol (Bloedorn, CQ HealthBeat, 10/2). Reversing current trends through prevention and early detection efforts would curb much of the treatment and productivity losses, according to the report, which does not provide a figure for the cost of such programs, according to the Los Angeles Times (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 10/3).
The report sets a target of reducing the nation's obesity rate from its current level of 23% to 1998 levels of 19% over the next 10 years. Doing so would prevent nearly 15 million illnesses and cut medical costs by about $60 billion, in addition to increasing productivity by about $250 billion by 2023, according to the report. Obesity levels are projected to reach 29% by 2023 under current trends. The report also targets smoking, with a goal of reducing smoking rates from about 22% to 15% nationwide, which would produce an estimated savings of $30 billion in treatment and about $80 billion in productivity (Lipman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/3).
The Milken Institute is part of a larger coalition of 87 medical groups, businesses and pharmaceutical companies that is pushing for detection and prevention efforts to receive more attention in the national health care debate, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.
The report states, "The current health care debate rightly focuses on the extension of coverage to the uninsured and the design of a financing mechanism that is both fair and efficient. We suggest that the nature of services provided -- the failure to invest in prevention and early intervention -- deserves equal place in the debate" (Walsh, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 10/3).
Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona -- chair of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases -- said, "It's truly staggering. If we are unable to reduce the rate of chronic disease, the potential economic damage to our nation could be devastating" (Los Angeles Times, 10/3).
Ross DeVol, director of regional economics for the Milken Institute and principle author of the report, said, "By investing in good health, we can add billions of dollars in economic growth in the coming decades," adding, "With moderate improvements in prevention and early intervention, such as reducing the rate of obesity, the savings to the economy would be enormous" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/3).
The report is available online.