From the high price of prescription medications to necessary surgeries and life-saving treatments, the United States spends more on healthcare than any other developed country – sometimes more than $400,000 over a lifetime for the average American. Even if insurance foots most of the bill, out-of-pocket expenditures for individuals, including co-pays and amounts not covered by insurance, are common and can mount up quickly. (This is how much your state spends on your health.)
Certain conditions can be much more expensive to treat than others. To identify the most expensive ailments in America, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the cost per case dollars, which measures the amount of money spent per episode of care, for 256 detailed conditions treated in the U.S. in 2019 from the Health Care Satellite Account – a set of statistics measuring U.S. health care spending produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
We used the BEA’s Blended Account database, which combines data from multiple sources, including large claims databases that cover millions of enrollees and billions of claims. To concentrate on specific conditions and diseases, we excluded miscellaneous categories such as “Other care and screening.” (Additional data given also comes from the BEA.)
Although a few of these ailments, including some heart attacks and H.I.V. are known to be preventable, the majority of them are not. The causes of a wide range of cancers – which make up seven of the 20 most expensive ailments – as well as appendicitis and ulcerative colitis are variable and poorly understood, meaning that patients may have little control over their progression and hence their need for expensive treatment.
Some of the most expensive ailments, including sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis are hereditary conditions. While living a healthy lifestyle is a key factor in preventing certain medical conditions, it often has little to do with some of the most costly illnesses. (Here are the most common ailments in America.)
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