Untreated Sleep Apnea Leads to Greater Medical Costs

obstructive sleep apnea

Costs can be, on average, $20,000 greater in 12-month period

Recent research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), which was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, found that the medical costs are substantially higher among older adults who go untreated for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The research involved a review of a national sample of Medicare claims data. Researchers measured the health care costs over a year among Medicare beneficiaries who were 65 years and older and were ultimately diagnosed with OSA.

They found that patients undiagnosed with OSA had more doctor’s appointments, emergency room visits, and hospital stays over a 12-month period prior to being treated for the disorder. On average, these patients had nearly $20,000 more in costs a year than those who were diagnosed and treated for OSA, the research found.

“Sleep disorders represent a massive economic burden on the U.S. healthcare system,” said Emerson Wickwire, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine at UMSOM and Director of the Insomnia Program at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Midtown Campus.

Dr. Wickwire, who was the Principal Investigator for this research, explained that economic aspects of diseases are increasingly recognized as important drivers of health decisions by patients, those paying for services, policymakers and ultimately the taxpayers.

“We conducted the largest economic analysis of sleep apnea among older adults to date,” said Dr. Wickwire. “Medicare beneficiaries with obstructive sleep apnea cost taxpayers an additional $19,566 per year and utilized more outpatient, emergency, inpatient, prescription, and overall health care services. It’s important to realize that costs associated with untreated sleep disorders are likely to continue to accrue year after year, which is why our group focuses on early recognition and treatment.”

The research is critical as OSA affects up to 70% of elderly nursing home residents, and these individuals are at higher risk of death.

A 2016 report by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimated that undiagnosed OSA among U.S. adults costs $149.6 billion annually. While the report projected it would cost the health care system nearly $50 billion to diagnosis and treat every American adult with OSA, treatment would produce savings of $100 billion. 

SOURCE: Medical Express

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