Chronic disease seen as driving Medicare costs

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted March 8, 2010

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While most Medicare spending growth was linked to intensive inpatient hospital services 20 years ago, much of the recent growth can be attributed to chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and kidney disease, according to a study published online Feb. 18 in Health Affairs (link).

Study authors examined the changing clinical characteristics that accounted for the rise in Medicare spending from 1987 to 2006. The data illustrate the need to improve prevention and wellness among seniors and younger Americans alike, said Ken Thorpe, PhD, executive director of Emory University's Center for Entitlement Reform and executive director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.

Thorpe, who co-authored the study, noted that more than half of all Medicare beneficiaries are treated for five or more chronic conditions each year, and that 99 cents out of every health care dollar spent in Medicare is for treating patients with chronic conditions. He recommended the adoption of community health teams and other care coordination models to help reverse these trends.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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