Background: During the past decade, there have been notable changes in asthma prevalence, morbidity, and mortality. In this same time period, there have also been important national efforts to increase asthma awareness and improve asthma care.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the changes in US cost of illness for asthma during the 10-year period from 1985-1994.
Methods: The study was a two-period (1985 and 1994), cross-sectional, cost-of-illness analysis. Cost estimates were based on US population and health care survey data available from the National Center for Health Statistics.
Results: The total US costs of asthma for 1994 were $10.7 billion. On the basis of 1985 estimates adjusted to 1994 dollars, total asthma costs increased by 54.1% and direct medical expenditures increased by 20.4% during the 10-year period. In 1985, hospital inpatient care represented the largest component cost of direct medical expenditures (44.6%). Hospital inpatient costs decreased to 29.5% of direct medical expenditures in 1994, primarily because of shorter lengths of stay, as opposed to a decrease in the total number of admissions. In 1994, medications represented the largest component cost of direct medical expenditures (40.1%, up from 30.0% in 1985). The largest component increase in indirect costs was due to loss of work. On the basis of adjusted dollars, estimated costs per affected person with asthma declined by 3.4% (decrease of 15.5% for children and an increase of 2.9% for persons 18 years and older) during this time period.
Conclusion: Although the US costs of asthma increased during the 1985-1994 time period, estimated costs per person with asthma demonstrated a modest decline. These findings may represent a combination of reductions in hospital lengths of stay and increasing prevalence of persons with low consumption of asthma-related health care resources. In examining the component costs, it is unclear whether these changes can be attributed to the many local, regional, and national efforts aimed at controlling untoward asthma outcomes during the 1985-1994 time period.