January 29, 2018
2 min read

Rising arthritis population led to 'huge increase' in economic burden

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Amit Raval

Despite the current stability in average annual health care expenditures, the increase in the number of patients with arthritis has led to a “huge increase” in the economic burden on the United States health care system in recent years, according to findings published in the Journal of Rheumatology.

“As arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the country, it was crucial to evaluate its economic burden to help policy makers in resource allocation, and designing and implementing interventions to manage this priority health condition,” Amit Raval, PhD, MPharm, of Life Science Research and Healthcore Inc., in Wilmington, Delaware, told Healio Rheumatology. “We identified that although the arthritis population increased over 2008 to 2014, average annual expenditures per person remained stable, but the aggregate expenditures rose due to growth of arthritis population.”

To determine trends in both direct and out-of-pocket health care spending among patients with arthritis, the researchers used data from the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey. For their study population, they established cross-sectional cohorts of patients aged 18 years and older from 2008 to 2014.

The researchers used two-part models to approximate the total and the different types of, annual direct and out-of-pocket expenditures for arthritis, adjusted to 2014 U.S. dollars. In estimating their figures, the researchers controlled for predisposing, enabling, need, personal health practice and environmental factors.

According to the researchers, their weighted results indicate that the population of patients with arthritis rose from 56.1 million in 2008 to 65.1 million in 2014. The annual average per-person direct health-related cost incurred by patients with arthritis decreased from $10,424 in 2008 (standard error [SE] = $345; aggregate = $584.8 billion) to $910 in 2014 (SE = $279; total = $645.1 billion). Annual average out-of-pocket health care expenditures for patients with arthritis decreased from $1,493 in 2008 (SE = $50; aggregate = $83.8 billion) to $1,099 in 2014 (SE = $36; aggregate = $71.5 billion). According to the researchers, in their fully adjusted model, patients with arthritis had “significantly greater” total and out-of-pocket costs from 2008 to 2014, despite the magnitude of incremental expenditures declining during that same time period.

“Incremental health care expenditures in those with arthritis were due to older age, poor health status and multiple chronic conditions,” Raval said. “Outpatient, prescription drugs and inpatient expenditures became the top-three categories in 2014, which could be attributed to use of outpatient surgical and medications-related services. Our study findings suggest the need for efficient manage multiple chronic conditions among this vulnerable population.” – by Jason Laday

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.