Osteoarthritis raises total health care costs in the United States by $186 billion each year, according to new research stressing the importance of improved awareness and screening for this painful form of arthritis.
Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is marked by stiffness, inflammation and pain in mostly the weight-bearing joints (hips and knees) plus the hands, feet and spine.
Osteoarthritis occurs in nearly 30 million Americans and typically affects women over 45 or 50 years of age, as evident in the new research detailed in the December issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.
In this study, Stony Brook University researchers examined data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for the years 1995 to 2006, with the goal of determining the annual expected health care costs of osteoarthritis.
Approximately 84,647 adult women and 70,590 adult men with health insurance were included in this survey, with the researchers analyzing expenditures for drugs, diagnostic testing, hospital, physician and outpatient services, and other medical services related to osteoarthritis.
The researchers found that osteoarthritis substantially increased the annual total medical care costs of insurers by $149.1 billion and significantly raised out-of-pocket expenditures by $36.1 billion, with higher costs in these two areas associated with women with osteoarthritis than men with this disease.
More specifically, the annual insurer health care costs for women with osteoarthritis were $4,833 as compared to $4,036 for men, while the annual out-of-pocket expenditures were $1,379 for women versus $694 for men.
Based on their findings, the researchers noted how patients may benefit from more education on exercises, pain medications and surgeries that treat osteoarthritis, with such greater awareness possibly leading to decreased health care costs in time.