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80% of Medicare beneficiaries have a chronic condition

Trends indicates need for increase in Medicare pay, hospital say

Topics: Medicare, Reimbursement, Finance, Cardiovascular, Service Lines

December 12, 2012

The rates of chronic disease among Medicare beneficiaries are increasing steadily, according to a study released Tuesday by the American Hospital Association (AHA).

About 80% of beneficiaries have an illness—such as heart disease, cancer, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes—lasting at least three months, according to the study. About half of those with stroke or heart failure also have several other chronic health conditions.

In all, two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries had at least two chronic illnesses in 2008, and that rate is increasing, AHA said.

Meanwhile, costs have risen. For instance, inpatient treatment for heart attack rose from $10,336 to $14,009 between 1999 and 2006.

The increasing rates of chronic illnesses have been fueled by beneficiaries' poorer health and longer lifespans, according to experts. For example, obesity rates—which have more than doubled among beneficiaries since the 1980s—have contributed to the issue.

According to AHA, the study gives credence to its argument that hospitals should receive increased reimbursements from Medicare to account for sicker beneficiaries. The group argues in the study that current payment rates do not reflect the increasing costs of treating sicker beneficiaries.

"Policymakers should carefully consider the trends of increasing acuity in the Medicare patient population as they seek changes to payment policy," the report states (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 12/11; Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 12/11 [subscription required]; AHA report, December 2012).

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