Dear Madame Senator and Mr. Representative,
I come again to your door step, with an issue. I have been here before and doubt you would remember, as I’m sure you must hear so many similar stories from your constituents. I have offered you tales of juvenile arthritis. I’ve told you of lost childhood, of daily pain, of minimized dreams and aspirations. I’ve spoken of young adults who have had new careers and young parenthood stolen by arthritis, and millions of people limited in mobility, health and freedom to participate in all of life’s adventures. I’ve shown you photos of sick children, of people who have passed away from the disease, and asked you to ponder how many people you certainly know who are affected. I begged you to imagine what you would do if your own child had to have a hip replacement at age 11, or if you yourself were unable to lift your newborn baby, or if you were unable to enjoy a simple walk through a garden with your grandchildren. Essentially, I have appealed to your emotions.
Well, times have changed, even if none of those reasons has. Now, I’m here to talk business. I’m here to talk about money. Certainly, this is a “hot button” issue, along with health care reform, and you can spare a moment?
According to the CDC, in 2003, arthritis cost the US economy 127.8 billion dollars in direct and indirect costs. That breaks down to 80.8 billion dollars in direct medical and 47 billion in lost earnings, for the 46 million Americans and 300,000 children with arthritis. That would be about $1756 for medical expenses per person with arthritis, or $2778 total per person including lost wages. If you are like me, you tend to be wary of statistics. Even though this study was conducted by researchers at the University of San Francisco, and was based on a sampling of 23,000 patients…. I decided to apply some of my own numbers for comparison.
Last year, my insurance company received claims totaling $125,408.47 for my daughter’s health care. The contract payment under the agreement between the insurance and providers was $30,589.86. On top of that, we paid out of pocket $3999.19. This does not include prescription medications, which easily average $75 month or $900 annually. So, for this one patient, the cost was over $35K last year.
Okay – I have a confession. It was an expensive year because there was a major surgery and several expensive procedures. So, perhaps I am unfairly skewing the statistics… that never happens, right? To be fair, I looked back over all of the years since diagnosis. The cheapest year still ran about $4k. Infusion treatments run about $7500/$10k a pop, so we had a couple of years around the $20K mark.
This is just one patient, with rheumatoid arthritis – which is often more expensive to treat than some of the other over 100 forms of arthritis. And unfortunately, you know there are lots of folks out there who are getting by on aspirin because they can’t afford to see a specialist. Let’s take into account the fact that many people spend close to nothing and just deal with the pain. But then, we also need to take into account the fact that long term damage will increase the need for expensive replacement surgeries over time, as well as increased loss of wages (because nearly 19 million people with arthritis are forced to stop working within 10 years of diagnosis).
Given all of that, does it seem likely that the cost per person of $2778 is accurate? If anything, it seems low to me. I never thought so, but when I add up the red in my pocketbook, it certainly seems possible.
The Arthritis Prevention Control and Cure Act (H.R.1210 / S.984) attempts to accomplish many things, but let me stick to the business end. The bill seeks to increase funding to the N.I.H, for research by 1.9 billion dollars and to the CDC for education / prevention programs by 23 million dollars. That amounts to roughly $41.80 per person afflicted. That is less than 2% of the annual per patient cost of arthritis to the economy.
I know money is tight…. Believe me, I know. But shouldn’t we spend the money now to help stem the tide of costs being created by this disease? It’s estimated that 67 million people will be affected by 2030.
Please support the Arthritis Prevention Control and Cure Act. Not doing so is clearly penny wise and pound foolish.