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Who Knew; Patients With Chronic Disease Incur a Lot of Health Spending

By February 12, 2016Commentary

Minnesota is one of the homes of the managed care revolution, hosts the headquarters of UnitedHealth Group and Medtronic, is where the Mayo Clinic is based and generally has been regarded as a health care leader.  But sometimes we may be a little slow, or at least our state government can be, in catching on to broad trends in health care use and spending.  A new report from our Department of Health seems surprised to see how much cost is tied up in treating people with chronic diseases.  (MN Report)    In 2012 (why is data used for these government reports always so dated–is their ability to collect data actually that bad?)  35.4% of insured Minnesotans had at least one chronic condition and half of this subset had multiple chronic diseases.  They accounted for 83% of all health spending.  The group of patients with five or more chronic conditions represented 36% of all health spending.  When a person had even one chronic condition, their average health spending was eight times higher than the spending for a person with no chronic disease.  Factors associated with chronic disease were being older and being female.  While the report speculates a little about why people have chronic diseases, especially multiple ones, it completely fails to deal with the obvious–it is largely people’s behavior that leads to poorer health and a system, like we have in Minnesota, that basically gives people all the free health care they want, regardless of their behaviors, is guaranteed to result in lots of poorer health and more health spending.

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