June 18, 2013
1 min read

Vision-related health care costs growing at alarming rate, PBA report says

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The economic burden associated with vision loss and eye disorders in the U.S. will continue to grow due to increasing health care costs and an aging population, according to a new report from Prevent Blindness America.

The cost of vision-related diseases to the U.S. economy is far greater than previously indicated, the report said. At $139 billion per year, they are more costly than three of the top seven major chronic diseases in the U.S. today, according to a press release from Prevent Blindness America (PBA).

Data from the report includes a breakdown of estimated costs of eye disorders and vision loss from the perspective of three payers: government ($47.4 billion), private insurance ($20.8 billion in direct medical costs; $1.3 billion for long-term care) and patients and their families ($71.6 billion), according to the release.

This report serves as a more comprehensive update to the landmark 2007 PBA report, the release said.

“We included additional direct and indirect costs in this report, as well as additional transfer payments,” study co-author John Wittenborn, of the University of Chicago, told PRIMARY CARE OPTOMETRY NEWS in an interview. “We captured costs for populations younger than age 40, reporting separately on the burden for ages 0 to 17 and 18 to 39, which wasn’t in the previous report. We included productivity loss for people younger than age 40 and older than age 65, along with the cost of low vision aid devices, which were not included in the previous analysis. Also, the previous analysis based on claims data did not fully capture all forces of payment.

“One of the most striking findings we had in the report,” Wittenborn continued, “is that indirect costs — costs outside of the health care sector — actually exceed direct costs associated with the health care sector. This shows us that prevention and treatment have the opportunity to save significant costs, not only future medical costs but also the indirect costs attributable to low vision, productivity losses or long-term care placement.”