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The Petersen-Kaiser Health Tracker on Disease Spending

By March 11, 2015Commentary

The Petersen Family Foundation is doing its best to save us all from the impending doom of the federal debt burden, and part of that is working with the Kaiser Foundation in regard to health spending, which is a large part of our spending problem.  They jointly created the Petersen-Kaiser Health System Tracker and have released a set of graphics relating to what disease categories the United States spends the most money on.   (PK Tracker)   The data is a little dated; from 2010, but probably the major categories haven’t changed much since then.  Circulatory, which includes heart conditions and strokes, is the largest at $234 billion, followed by “ill-defined conditions” (which is a wonderful unintended pun if I have ever seen one) at $207 billion.  Kind of a concern that this much money is spent on things we aren’t really sure how to define, but a lot of it is apparently preventive care and minor things like colds.  Musculoskeletal comes in at $170 billion, then respiratory at $144 billion.  The top ten categories account for over $1.3 trillion in spending.  On an annualized basis over the ten years leading up to 2010, those ill-defined conditions grew fastest in spending, at 11% annually, followed by endocrine at 9.1%.  More slow growth was found in circulatory, 4.4%, and respiratory, 4.5%.  Those sick-described conditions also contributed the most to overall spending growth, 16.3% of it, followed by musculoskeletal, accounting for 11.3% of total health spending growth and circulatory for 9.9%.  On an episode basis, the cost of treating infectious diseases rose fastest, at an annual rate of 6.9% and nervous system and ailing-defined conditions had cost per episode annual growth of 5.6%.  Circulatory episode costs rose only 3% per year and mental illness only 3.4%.  Looking at utilization growth, once again our set of poorly described conditions led the way with an annual increase of 5.2% in number of cases.  Endocrine had a yearly rise of 4.8% in number of cases.  On the other end, there was an annualized decrease in pregnancy and childbirth of .4% and injuries and poisoning episodes decreased .1%.  Now you know where a lot of that health spending is going!!

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