Purpose of review: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has a substantial economic impact on healthcare systems. We reviewed parameters affecting healthcare costs (race, low education, and socioeconomic status) on OSA comorbidity, and costs and the effect of OSA treatment on medical costs.
Recent findings: OSA is associated with increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) morbidity and substantially increased medical costs. Risk for OSA and resulting CVD are associated with obesity, tobacco smoking, black race, and low socioeconomic status; all these are associated with poor continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) adherence. Healthcare costs are not normally distributed, that is, the costliest and the sickest upper third of patients consume 65-82% of all medical costs. Only a limited number of studies have explored the effect of CPAP on medical costs.
Summary: Costs of untreated OSA may double the medical expenses mainly because of CVD. Identifying the costliest, sickest upper third of OSA patients will reduce expenses to healthcare systems. Studies exploring the effect of CPAP on medical costs are essential. In addition, tailoring intervention programs to reduce barriers to adherence have the potential to improve CPAP treatment, specially in at-risk populations that are sicker and consume more healthcare costs.