Cost of Chronic Disease to Reach $42 Trillion by 2030

I can’t even fathom how much $42 trillion is. But experts predict that it’s the price we will be paying for unhealthy behaviors, in both medical costs and lost productivity by 2030, if we don’t take steps to improve our health (Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease). The projections cover years 2016-2030:

  • $2 trillion in medical costs per year
  • $794 billion per year in lost productivity

That equates to $8,600 per person, per year.

Chronic Disease Stats

  • 6 in 10 adults have a chronic disease
  • 4 in 10 adults have 2 or more chronic diseases (see figure 1)

The CDC also reports that chronic disease is the leading:

  • Cause of death and disability in the US
  • Cost driver of our $3.3 trillion annual healthcare spend
    •  90% of that spend goes toward treating people with chronic and mental conditions

Economic Impact of Chronic Diseases

Here’s a look at the economic costs of chronic conditions impacting Americans (CDC).

Heart disease and stroke

Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death, accounting for:

  • 33% of all deaths each year (see figure 2)

Cancer

  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US
  • Each year, 1.5+ million people are diagnosed with some type of cancer
  • 500,000 die from it each year
  • By 2020, 2 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer each year

The cost of cancer is expected to be nearly $174 billion by 2020.

Diabetes

  • 30+ million Americans have diabetes
  • 84+ million Americans have pre-diabetes, putting them at risk for Type 2 diabetes
  • Diabetes put people at increased risk for health disease, kidney failure, and blindness

The direct and indirect costs of diabetes are $312 billion each year (see figure 3).

Figure 3 | Source: Diabetes 2018, CDC

Obesity

  • Nearly 1 in 5 children are obese
  • 1 in 3 adults are obese
  • Obesity increases the risk for other chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers

Obesity costs $145 billion each year.

Arthritis

Arthritis is the most common chronic condition and a common cause of chronic pain.

  • More than 1 in 4 adults suffer with Arthritis
  • It is the leading cause of work disability in the US

The total cost of arthritis and related conditions was $304 in 2013 (see figure 4)

Figure 4

Alzheimer’s Disease

  • This irreversible brain disease affects nearly 5.7 Americans
  • By 2060, experts predict the disease will affect 1 in 4 adults, or 25% of the adult population (see figure 5)
  • It is the 6th leading cause of death among all adults
    • It is the 5th leading cause of death of Americans aged 65+
  • The 2017 estimated costs for healthcare, long-term care, and hospice to treat Alzheimer’s disease: $259 billion

By 2040, annual costs of treating Alzheimer’s disease are projected to reach $379-$500 billion.

Epilepsy

  • Nearly 3 million adults have been diagnosed with epilepsy by a doctor, have had a seizure, or both
  • 470,000 children/teens under age 18 have been diagnosed with epilepsy by a doctor, have had a seizure, or both
  • Adults with epilepsy report reduced mental health and cognitive impairment

The direct costs of epilepsy are estimated at $15.5 billion per year.

3 Risk Factors

The CDC identifies 3 risk factors that are key to preventing chronic disease and better managing its impact on those already suffering from conditions:

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the US.

  • 16+ million people have at least 1 disease caused by smoking.
  • Cost:  $170 billion in direct medical costs

Lack of physical activity can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity.

Cost: $117 billion annually for related healthcare

Excessive alcohol use leads to 88,000 deaths in the US each year:

  • 1 in 10 working adults dies each year
  • Binge drinking is responsible for more than 50% of the deaths and 75% of the costs associated with excessive alcohol use

Cost: $249 million in 2010

Reducing the Risks of Chronic Disease

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease has projected the annual savings we could achieve through better prevention and treatment:

  • 1 million lives
  • $6.3 trillion in savings

As individuals, we need to make more healthy lifestyle choices. As employers, you want to help employees stay healthy for themselves and for your bottom line. But there is conflicting information out there about the effectiveness of wellness programs. How do you know what to do?

The best advice is to use data to understand the causes of medical and related spend in your population. You use data in other areas of your business every day to make decisions. In fact, you wouldn’t make decisions without it. So why are you not diligent about getting to the root causes of your benefit program issues? In many companies, they are now the number 2 expense. And they will continue to hold that position as long as people make unhealthy lifestyle choices.

You may also be interested in:
Untreated Mental Illness and Its Consequences
Is There a Gender Bias in Financial Wellness
Health Spending as it Relates to Income
Breaking Down Employee Benefit Silos

Sashi Segu

Sashi Segu

Sashi Segu, Counsel, has participated in cases and provided legal expertise on HIPAA, ERISA, privacy, compliance, and other healthcare-related fields. He is currently Legal Counsel for Innovu, a healthcare data analytics company in Pittsburgh, PA. Sashi oversees legal research, advises management and staff, and works with internal partners and outside legal counsel. He is also responsible for drafting and reviewing contracts and negotiating with outside parties.

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