Objective: We report the results of a population based analysis of all health services used and charges incurred over a one-year period among a community based cohort of persons with a diagnosis of arthritis [including both osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA)] compared to a similar cohort of individuals from the same community who have never had a diagnosis of arthritis (NA), to examine the attributable costs of this chronic condition.
Methods: The unique resources of the Rochester Epidemiology Project were used to assemble the arthritis prevalence cohorts and the population based control cohort. The Olmsted County Health Care Utilization and Expenditures Database was used to collect information on health services utilization and charges.
Results: The average direct medical charges for the RA, OA, and NA cohorts were $3,802.05, $2,654.51, and $1,387.83, respectively (age and sex adjusted, p < 0.0001 for both the RA vs NA and OA vs NA comparisons). The median charges for these 3 groups were $1,050.00, $663.55, and $232.04 for the RA, OA, and NA groups, respectively (age and sex adjusted p < 0.0001 for both the RA vs NA and OA vs NA comparisons). These analyses indicated that, compared to the NA cohort both the OA and the RA prevalence cohorts incurred statistically significantly more charges, not only for the musculoskeletal disease care, but also for the care of numerous other conditions including respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, and psychiatric conditions; and for general medical care. Individuals with arthritis (both OA and RA) also incurred statistically significantly more charges for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, in-hospital care, imaging studies, physician services, equipment, and laboratory studies. Use of prescription medications was statistically significantly more common in the RA and OA groups compared to NA (96.3, 96, and 83%, respectively; age and sex adjusted p = 0.006 for the OA vs NA comparison and p = 0.015 for RA vs NA).
Conclusion: These results emphasize the importance of considering all health services utilization (rather than only disease specific use) when estimating the economic effect of a chronic illness such as arthritis.