Objective: Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death by disease in the U.S. Diabetes also contributes to higher rates of morbidity-people with diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, extremity amputations, and other chronic conditions. The objectives of this study were 1). to estimate the direct medical and indirect productivity-related costs attributable to diabetes and 2). to calculate and compare the total and per capita medical expenditures for people with and without diabetes.
Research design and methods: Medical expenditures were estimated for the U.S. population with and without diabetes in 2002 by sex, age, race/ethnicity, type of medical condition, and health care setting. Health care use and total health care expenditures attributable to diabetes were estimated using etiological fractions, calculated based on national health care survey data. The value of lost productivity attributable to diabetes was also estimated based on estimates of lost workdays, restricted activity days, prevalence of permanent disability, and mortality attributable to diabetes. RESULTS-Direct medical and indirect expenditures attributable to diabetes in 2002 were estimated at 132 billion US dollars. Direct medical expenditures alone totaled 91.8 billion US dollars and comprised 23.2 billion US dollars for diabetes care, 24.6 billion US dollars for chronic complications attributable to diabetes, and 44.1 billion US dollars for excess prevalence of general medical conditions. Inpatient days (43.9%), nursing home care (15.1%), and office visits (10.9%) constituted the major expenditure groups by service settings. In addition, 51.8% of direct medical expenditures were incurred by people >65 years old. Attributable indirect expenditures resulting from lost workdays, restricted activity days, mortality, and permanent disability due to diabetes totaled 39.8 billion US dollars. U.S. health expenditures for the health care components included in the study totaled 865 billion US dollars, of which 160 billion US dollars was incurred by people with diabetes. Per capita medical expenditures totaled 13243 US dollars for people with diabetes and 2560 US dollars for people without diabetes. When adjusting for differences in age, sex, and race/ethnicity between the population with and without diabetes, people with diabetes had medical expenditures that were approximately 2.4 times higher than expenditures that would be incurred by the same group in the absence of diabetes.
Conclusions: The estimated 132 billion US dollars cost likely underestimates the true burden of diabetes because it omits intangibles, such as pain and suffering, care provided by nonpaid caregivers, and several areas of health care spending where people with diabetes probably use services at higher rates than people without diabetes (e.g., dental care, optometry care, and the use of licensed dietitians). In addition, the cost estimate excludes undiagnosed cases of diabetes. Health care spending in 2002 for people with diabetes is more than double what spending would be without diabetes. Diabetes imposes a substantial cost burden to society and, in particular, to those individuals with diabetes and their families. Eliminating or reducing the health problems caused by diabetes through factors such as better access to preventive care, more widespread diagnosis, more intensive disease management, and the advent of new medical technologies could significantly improve the quality of life for people with diabetes and their families while at the same time potentially reducing national expenditures for health care services and increasing productivity in the U.S. economy.