Objective: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a major debilitating disease affecting approximately 27 million persons in the US. Yet, the financial costs to patients and insurers remain poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to quantify by multivariate analyses the relationships between OA and annual health care expenditures borne by patients and insurers.
Methods: Data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) for the years 1996-2005 were used. MEPS is a large, nationally representative US database that includes information on health care expenditures, medical conditions, health insurance status, and sociodemographic characteristics. Individual and nationally aggregated cost estimates are provided.
Results: OA was found to contribute substantially to health care expenditures. Among women, OA increased out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures by $1,379 per annum (2007 dollars) and insurer expenditures by $4,833. Among men, OA increased OOP expenditures by $694 per annum and insurer expenditures by $4,036. Given the high prevalence of OA, the aggregate effects on health care expenditures were very large. OA raised aggregate annual medical care expenditures by $185.5 billion. Of that amount, insurer expenditures were $149.4 billion and OOP expenditures were $36.1 billion. Because of the greater prevalence of OA in women and their more intensive use of health care, total expenditures for this group accounted for $118 billion, or almost two-thirds of the total increase in health care expenditures resulting from OA.
Conclusion: The health care cost burden associated with OA is quite large for all groups examined and is disproportionately higher for women. Although insurers bear the brunt of treatment costs for OA, the OOP costs are also substantial.