A national study of medical care expenditures for musculoskeletal conditions: the impact of health insurance and managed care

Arthritis Rheum. 2001 May;44(5):1160-9. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(200105)44:5<1160::AID-ANR199>3.0.CO;2-Y.


Objective: To provide estimates of all medical care expenditures on behalf of persons with musculoskeletal conditions in the United States in 1996, to estimate the increment in expenditures attributable to the musculoskeletal conditions among such persons, and to ascertain the impact of the presence or absence of health insurance and/or managed care on such expenditures.

Methods: The estimates were derived from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a national probability sample of 9,488 households, which includes responses from 21,571 persons. In the MEPS, respondents are surveyed every 6 months to report on medical care utilization and health care expenditures. Of the 21,571 persons surveyed, 4,161 reported having 1 or more musculoskeletal conditions. After weighting the data, these 4,161 individuals were inferred to represent 53.935 million persons in the nation as a whole. We tabulated all medical care expenditures of these individuals, stratified by comorbidity status, and then compared their expenditures with those among persons with chronic conditions other than musculoskeletal disease or with no chronic conditions. We then used regression techniques to estimate the increment of health care expenditures attributable to the musculoskeletal conditions. Finally, we used regression to estimate the impact of health insurance status and managed care status on the health care expenditures of the persons with musculoskeletal conditions.

Results: Per capita medical care expenditures in 1996 averaged $3,578 among persons with musculoskeletal conditions, for a national total of $193 billion, the equivalent of 2.5% of the Gross Domestic Product in that year. The largest components were hospital admissions (37%), physician visits (23%), and prescriptions (16%). Estimates of the per capita increment in total medical care expenditures attributable to musculoskeletal conditions ranged from a high of $723 when controlling for the other medical conditions present, to $364 when controlling for these variables and demographics. Persons with musculoskeletal conditions ages 16-64 who lacked health insurance reported total expenditures of $793, versus $3,249 among those with insurance (P < 0.0001). Among such persons with insurance, expenditures did not differ significantly between those in fee-for-service plans and those in managed care health plans.

Conclusion: Persons with musculoskeletal conditions and health insurance experienced high total expenditures for medical care and high expenditures attributable to the musculoskeletal conditions. Insurance coverage under a managed care plan had no effect on the magnitude of these total expenditures, but lack of insurance coverage did have a significant effect among persons with musculoskeletal conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care / economics
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / economics
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / statistics & numerical data
  • Home Care Agencies / economics
  • Home Care Agencies / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / economics*
  • Managed Care Programs / economics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / economics*
  • United States