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Diabetes, heart disease, back pain consume most of health care dollars

Diabetes, heart disease, and back pain dominate U.S. health care spending, according to a new financial analysis of American health spending in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available. Just 20 health problems accounted for half of all spending on diseases and injuries.

The most expensive condition, diabetes, grew 36 times faster in diagnostic and treatment costs than did ischemic heart disease, although heart disease is the number one cause of death among Americans. The third most expensive condition was low back and neck pain, which primarily strikes adults of working age.

The comprehensive analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, distinguishes spending on public health programs from personal health spending, including both individual out-of-pocket costs and insurance spending, and covers 155 conditions.

“While it is well known that the U.S. spends more than any other nation on health care, very little is known about what diseases drive that spending,” said Dr. Joseph Dieleman, lead author of the analysis and Assistant Professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation [IHME] at the University of Washington. “IHME is trying to fill the information gap so that decision-makers in the public and private sectors can understand the spending landscape, and plan and allocate health resources more effectively.”

According to the analysis, the top 10 most costly health conditions among Americans in 2013 were:

  1. Diabetes – $101.4 billion
  2. Heart disease – $88.1 billion
  3. Low back and neck pain – $87.6 billion
  4. Hypertension – $83.9 billion
  5. Injuries from falls – $76.3 billion
  6. Depressive disorders – $71.1 billion
  7. Oral-related problems – $66.4 billion
  8. Vision and hearing problems – $59 billion
  9. Skin-related problems – $55.7 billion
  10. Pregnancy and postpartum care – $55.6 billion
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