The state of health in America is experiencing a concerning decline. Chronic diseases are among the most prevalent and costly health conditions in the United States. And they’re far more prevalent than most think: chronic conditions are physical or mental health issues that last more than a year and cause functional restrictions that require ongoing monitoring and treatment.
Generally incurable and ongoing, chronic diseases affect approximately 133 million Americans, representing more than 40% of the total population of this country. These health issues are ongoing, generally incurable illnesses or conditions, such as heart disease, asthma, cancer, and diabetes. These diseases are often preventable, and frequently manageable through early detection, improved diet, exercise, and treatment therapy. And the number of people with chronic conditions is rapidly increasing. In 2015, a study documented a shocking trend: despite advances in medical technology, middle-age white Americans are dying at younger ages for the first time in decades. Every year more than 1.7 million Americans die from a chronic, incurable disease.
The rise of chronic diseases are leaving healthcare payers with the challenge of covering care for patients with these expensive, long-term conditions. Chronic diseases account for the vast majority of health spending – in 2005, total spending on public and private health care amounted to nearly $2 trillion. People with chronic conditions are the most frequent users of health care in the U.S. They account for 81% of hospital admissions; 91% of all prescriptions filled; and 76% of all physician visits.
A 2007 study reported that chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and pulmonary conditions have an impact $1.3 trillion annual impact on the economy. By the year 2023, this number is projected to increase to $4.2 trillion in treatment costs and lost economic output. Health care premiums have increased by 87% in the last twenty years, and the average costs for chronic patients is over $6,000 annually, which is five times higher than for those without a condition. The total cost of obesity alone to U.S. companies is estimated at $13 billion annually. This includes the impact costs, such as health insurance ($8 billion), sick leave ($2.4 billion), life insurance ($1.8 billion), and disability insurance ($1 billion) that are associated with obesity. Of that amount, more than 75% went toward treatment of chronic disease.
The disconnect is that many of these conditions could be dramatically reduced with the right care. Many chronic diseases could be prevented, delayed, or alleviated, through simple lifestyle changes. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, people with chronic conditions typically receive less than 60% of the recommended preventive measures prescribed. Compared with other developed nations, the U.S. ranks poorly on cost and outcomes. This is predominantly because of our inability to effectively manage chronic disease. A recent Milken analysis estimated that modest reductions in unhealthy behaviors could prevent or delay 40 million cases of chronic illness per year. If we learn how to effectively manage chronic conditions, thus avoiding hospitalizations and serious complications, the healthcare system can improve quality of life for patients and greatly reduce the ballooning cost burden we all share.