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Study: Chronic Disease Increased by 25 Percent Over Last Decade

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff, CQ Staff

July 28, 2008 -- The number of working-age adults with major chronic conditions has increased by 25 percent over the last 10 years, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The study also found that chronic disease sufferers without health care coverage experienced a decrease in access to health care in the same period.

Forty percent of the population has one or more chronic disease, the study said, and those individuals make up three-fourths of health care spending. In the study, "major chronic diseases" included heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, pulmonary conditions such as emphysema and asthma, and cancer.

Several health experts have said prevention of these diseases is a way to lower health care costs. A study published last week showed that investing $10 per person per year in community-based disease prevention, it could save more than $16 billion annually within five years.

The Kaiser study found that in 1997, 46 million non-elderly adult Americans had a chronic disease, but by 2006, that number rose to 57.7 million. The percentage of working-age adults with a chronic disease also has increased from 28 percent in 1997 to 31 percent by 2006. Rates of hypertension, diabetes, emphysema, and cancer rates all increased statistically.

The study found that over the 10-year period, more individuals with chronic disease were older, from racial or ethnic minority groups, college educated, unmarried, and male.

The study also found that, after socioeconomic differences were controlled, 34.4 percent of working-age, uninsured adults with chronic conditions had no usual source of care in 2006, which is up from 29.2 percent in 1997. Those with Medicaid or private insurance were much less unlikely to have no usual source of care. Five percent of Medicaid patients had no usual source of care, up from 4.6 percent in 1997. Among those with private insurance, 4.7 percent had no usual source of care, down from 6.5 percent.

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