By Dr. Paul Ehrlich
The last figure we had for the overall cost of asthma to the US economy covering years 2002-2007 was $56-billion annually measured in medication costs, emergency room visits, and days lost to school and work. Now we have new numbers and they are stunning. New analysis derived from federal government data covering the years 2008 to 2013 brought an estimate of $82-billion, encompassing about 15.4 million people treated annually. The annual per-capita medical cost of asthma was $3,266.
As published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society Jan. 12 and reported in WebMD,
“$1,830 was for prescriptions, $640 for office visits, $529 for hospitalizations, $176 for hospital outpatient visits and $105 for emergency room care. Asthma-related deaths cost $29 billion a year, with an average of 3,168 deaths a year.”
Other CDC statistics released late last year show that among children and adolescents from 5-17 years old, asthma accounts for a loss of 10 million school days annually and costs caretakers $726.1 million per year because lost work days.
Bad as those numbers are they only account for treated asthma. We don’t know how many are untreated. Parents should look for behavioral cues: nighttime wakefulness and daytime lethargy, lack of energy at play, teacher complaints of inattentiveness at school.
And they don’t account for asthma under the age of five, when patients are hospitalized at twice the rate of older children. This is not only because their airways are smaller and block more easily but because children can’t express discomfort and their parents are not attuned to spotting symptoms. (For more on this please check our archived publication of Dr. Thomas Plaut’s signs-based asthma action plan.)
Asthma isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s more complex than we have traditionally acknowledged, and it must treated on an individual basis. But the toll it takes falls on everyone.
photo from marketwatch.com