(CN) – Asthma-related medical expenses, missed school and work and deaths cost the U.S. economy more than $80 billion each year, according to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report, published Friday in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society, is based on data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the most complete source of information on health care use and expenditures and health insurance coverage in the United States.
The study estimates that roughly 15.4 million in people in the U.S. were treated for asthma annually between 2008 and 2013, costing the national economy about $81.9 billion.
“The cost of asthma is one of the most important measures of the burden of the disease,” said lead author Tursynbek Nurmagambetov, a health economist at the CDC. “Cost studies can influence health policy decisions and help decision-makers understand the scale, seriousness and implications of asthma, so that resources can be identified to improve disease management and reduce the burden of asthma.”
Of the nearly 214,000 survey respondents, 10,237 individuals had treated asthma. The team defined treated asthma as having at least one medical encounter or medicine prescription related to asthma during a calendar year. The researchers used the survey results to estimate nationwide asthma-related figures and costs over the six-year period examined.
The team estimates the average asthma patient paid $3,266 for medical costs annually, including $1,830 on prescriptions, $529 on hospitalizations, $640 for office visits, $176 on hospital outpatient visits, and $105 on emergency room care.
Asthma patients also missed 5.2 million school days and 8.7 million work days on average each year, at a cost of $3 billion.
Surprisingly, on a per-person basis, individuals who did not have health insurance paid significantly less for asthma-related care than insured people.
Deaths related to the disease cost $29 billion each year, representing on average 3,168 deaths.
The team believes the study probably underestimates the total cost of asthma to the U.S. economy, since it does not consider individuals who were not treated for the disease. The report also did not include nonmedical costs related to asthma, such as time spent waiting for appointments, transportation expenses and reduced productivity at school or work.
“The findings of the paper highlight the critical need to support and further strengthen asthma control strategies,” Nurmagambetov said.
“In order to reduce asthma-related ER visits, hospitalizations, absenteeism and mortality, we need to support guidelines-based care, expand self-management education and reduce environmental asthma triggers at homes.”