More Americans Getting Multiple Chronic Illnesses
January 6th, 2009
More Americans are burdened by chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure, often having more than three at a time, and this has helped fuel a big rise in out-of-pocket medical expenses, a study released on Tuesday showed.
With prescription drugs playing a key role, average annual out-of-pocket medical costs — those not covered by health insurance — rose from $427 per American in 1996 to $741 in 2005, researchers wrote in the journal Health Affairs.
Based on government survey data, 44 percent of Americans in 2005 had at least one chronic medical condition, which could include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, cancer, arthritis, heart failure and others. That compares to 41 percent in 1996.
The study did not look directly at the causes of the increases, but there appear to be several factors.
The rise in Americans with multiple chronic illnesses comes as obesity and sedentary lifestyles have grown more common. Obesity contributes to many chronic ailments including diabetes. U.S. health officials say the rate of new cases of diabetes soared by about 90 percent in the past decade.