In recent years, the Affordable Care Act has thrown health care into the public spotlight. For patients with chronic conditions and diseases, the high cost of medical care has been a pain point. Here is a look at the 11 most expensive diseases and medical conditions in the U.S.
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11. HIV/AIDS: $24 Billion
The Centers for Disease Control first described AIDS in June 1981 as a rare lung infection found in five men in Los Angeles. Since then, nearly 78 million people have contracted HIV and 39 million have died from AIDS-related causes worldwide, according to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. In the past 10 years, the number of people living with HIV has gone up, though the number of new infections has remained steady.
“Each year approximately 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with the HIV virus," said Dr. Avni Mahiji, a pharmacist and health and wellness expert. "In the U.S., it costs each patient being treated approximately $50,000 annually to receive medication.” These costs, taken with the $24.12 billion the federal government budgets for related health programs and research, makes HIV and AIDS among the most expensive diseases in the U.S.
10. Hyperlipidemia: $34.5 Billion
Hyperlipidemia is the clinical term for abnormally high levels of lipids, which are molecules that include fats, waxes, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins and various types of glycerides. To the average person, hyperlipidemia is better known as high cholesterol.
The condition is broken down into primary hyperlipidemia, which is due to genetic causes, and secondary hyperlipidemia, which is generally caused by other factors such as poor diet, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle. Whether acquired naturally from genetic disposition or from other causes, hyperlipidemia is a costly disease that puts patients at major risk of heart disease.
9. Kidney Disease: $38.1 Billion
Kidney disease, like other conditions on this list, is linked to a number of other disorders, notably diabetes and high blood pressure. In fact, it's estimated that one in three adults with diabetes and one in five adults with high blood pressure have chronic kidney disease. In terms of the overall U.S. population, the CDC estimates that more than 10 percent of adults suffer from the disease.
8. Mental Disorders: $57.5 Billion
“Mental illness is one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S. and the rest of the world," said Houston psychiatrist Jared Heathman. Although mental illness comes with high treatment costs, Heathman said those costs are overshadowed by the collective cost of missed days at work. "The loss of productivity significantly affects the economy. The WHO has reported that depression alone accounts for 37 percent of healthy years lost due to non-communicable diseases.”
The National Institute of Mental Health said mental health costs compare in cost to cancers. However, much of the cost of mental illness in the U.S. stems from loss of income due to unemployment, expenses for social support and other indirect costs due to chronic disability.
7. Arthritis: $74.4 Billion
Arthritis is a crippling disease that, even if it doesn’t directly lead to death, severely reduces quality of life and affects 52.5 million adults. As people age, the likelihood of developing joint problems increases, with osteoarthritis being the leading cause for knee and hip replacements, according to WebMD.
According to a study published in the June 2014 issue of Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, the number of typical knee replacements more than tripled in the years between 1993 and 2009. In that same timespan, hip replacements doubled. The future looks equally grim as it is estimated that by 2030, roughly 67 million Americans over the age of 18 will be diagnosed with arthritis.
6. COPD and Asthma: $79.6 Billion
Asthma is a common condition, with one in 12 people having it. The CDC puts the cost of asthma at $56 billion, citing medical costs, lost school and work days, and early deaths. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, on the other hand, includes the lung diseases emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The condition is often caused by smoking, air pollution, dust and chemical fumes.
5. Obesity: $147 Billion
It is commonly said that the U.S. is the fattest country in the world. While that isn’t exactly true, the U.S. still ranks highly among Western nations, with 66.3 percent of Americans considered obese or overweight, according to the 2013 Global Burden of Disease Study. Equally disturbing are the annual estimates of how much obesity costs the U.S.
Low estimates put the cost of obesity at $147 billion; high estimates put the cost at $210 billion. Aside from health care costs, obesity has been linked to job absenteeism and reduced productivity at work.
4. Cancer: $157 Billion
Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 585,720 deaths in 2014. According to the American Cancer Society, the estimated number of new cancer cases in 2014 was 855,220 for men and 810,320 for women of all ages, while prostate and breast cancer ranked as the top two types diagnosed. Yet, cancer death rates have actually fallen over the past 10 years. With greater awareness of the causal link between smoking and cancer, hopefully these numbers will continue to decline.
3. Dementia: $159 Billion
The U.S. cost of dementia ranges from $159 billion to $215 billion, according to a 2013 RAND Corporation study. The biggest costs associated with the disease are related to long-term care services rather than medical costs. Per person, the disease costs between $41,689 and $56,290.
In 2010, 14 percent of Americans age 71 and older had dementia; that number is expected to increase. By 2040, the disease can cost up to $511 billion per year, adjusted for inflation.
2. Diabetes: $176 Billion
Diabetes is a leading cause of death in the U.S., with 234,051 death certificates in 2010 identifying diabetes as either the underlying cause of death or contributing to it, according to the American Diabetes Association. The prevalence of the disease is staggering too, with 29.1 million people suffering from diabetes. An estimated 8.1 million are undiagnosed.
What makes diabetes so sinister is that about one in four people aren’t aware that they have it. The disease is also linked to heart disease and kidney disease, nerve damage, and eye problems, among other conditions. Because diabetes is, in some ways, a "gateway" disease, its real costs might be much higher than what is listed here.
1. Heart Disease: $193.4 Billion
Each year, an estimated 735,000 Americans have a heart attack and 610,000 people die from heart disease, according to the CDC. Heart disease covers a number of conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, atrial fibrillation, sudden cardiac arrest and heart failure. With so many Americans afflicted, the cost of heart disease is understandably enormous. In 2010, the estimated total cost of heart disease and stroke was estimated at $315.4 billion. $193.4 billion of that total accounted for direct medical costs.
Further, the human toll in terms of suffering and distress caused by heart disease is incalculable. Maintaining your health is priceless. Further, with the cost of health care in retirement, maintaining your health is one of the best retirement planning tactics to consider.