Heart Disease Treatment Costs May Triple in Next 20 Years

Aging Baby Boomers Could Push Costs Up to $545 Billion by 2030, Group Says

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Jan. 24, 2011 -- The costs of treating heart disease are expected to triple by the year 2030, creating an “enormous financial burden” for millions of Americans, the American Heart Association says in a new policy statement.

The tab for treating heart disease will rise to $545 billion over the next 20 years, in large part because of the aging of the baby boom population, the oldest of which will be in their mid-80s by then.

The policy statement is published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Strides Made in Treatment, but More Needs to Be Done

Paul Heidenreich, MD, chair of the AHA’s panel that issued the statement, says in a news release that despite great strides made in reducing heart disease and understanding its causes in the past 50 years, “even if we just maintain our current rates, we will have an enormous financial burden on top of the disease itself.”

Cost estimates for 2030 "don’t assume that we will continue to make new discoveries to reduce heart disease," says Heidenreich, associate professor of medicine at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, who is also associated with Stanford University.

Future costs were estimated based on current rates of heart disease, and information from the U.S. Census Bureau was used to project population shifts in age and race. The analysis did not take into account any changes in outcome for various heart disorders in the future, and assumed a continued acceleration of health care spending on heart disease based upon historical trends.

New Treatment Methods Needed, Including More Emphasis on Obesity

Unless new ways are found to treat or perhaps slow down the increase in heart disease prevalence, costs will triple by 2020 simply through demographic changes, Heidenreich says.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 17% of overall health costs, and thus effective prevention strategies are badly needed, according the panel.

“Unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy environments have contributed to a tidal wave of risk factors among Americans,” Nancy Brown, CEO of the AHA, says in the news release. “Early intervention and evidence-based public policies are absolute musts to significantly reduce alarming rates of obesity, hypertension, tobacco use, and cholesterol levels,” all causes of cardiovascular problems.

The new policy statement says 36.9% of Americans already have some form of heart disease, including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and other conditions.


The Numbers

More than 40% of Americans will have cardiovascular disease by 2020, but by 2030, this will rise to 40.5%, or 116 million people, the panel report says.

The biggest increases are expected in stroke, estimated to rise 24.9%, and heart failure, predicted to increase by 25%.

The cost of medical care for heart disease will rise from $273 billion in 2010 to $818 billion, an increase Heidenreich described as “remarkable.”

Heart disease also will cost the nation many billions of dollars in lost productivity, jumping to $276 billion in 2030 from $172 billion now. Productivity losses include days missed from home or work tasks because of illness and potential lost earnings from premature death.

The authors write that cardiovascular disease now accounts for 17% of overall national health expenditures, which are the highest in the world, eating up 15% of gross domestic product, compared to 10% in 1985.

Costs Rise as Life Expectancy Rises

The growth in costs has accompanied a rise in life expectancy, suggesting that spending on cardiovascular problems has been of considerable value, but significant improvements can and should be made in the coming years, the policy statement says.

Costs could rise even higher than projected, the panel says, if obesity and diabetes continue to increase rapidly.

The panel recommends that the U.S. health care system should promote prevention and early intervention on risk factors for cardiovascular disease, as well as encourage community prevention efforts (such as reducing sodium content of foods and designing new communities to promote physical activity).

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC on January 23, 2011



News release, American Heart Association.

Heidenreich, P. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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