Price Tag for Treating Back Problems Now Totals $30.5 Billion
AHRQ News and Numbers, July 28, 2010
Release date: July 28, 2010
Treating back problems, one of the most bothersome medical problems, cost Americans more than $30 billion in 2007—up from $16 billion in 1997 (in 2007 dollars), according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
According to the analysis by the Federal agency, in 2007 about 27 million people, or nearly 12 percent of adults age 18 and older, reported having back problems. Of those, more than 19 million sought medical treatment.
The Federal agency also found that:
- In 2007, two-thirds of the total spent for treatment of back problems went to pay physicians, chiropractors and physical therapists for ambulatory care and for prescription drugs ($18 billion and $4.5 billion, respectively). This is up from $9.3 billion spent on office-based care and $1.2 billion on prescription drugs in 1997 (in 2007 dollars).
- The remaining expenses in both 2007 and 1997 were for hospital care, emergency room visits, and home health services.
- The average expenditures for treatment of back problems were $1,589 per adult in 2007 ($1,146 for ambulatory care and $446 for prescription drugs).
- Out-of-pocket payments by patients accounted for roughly 17 percent of total spent in 2007 for treatment of back problems; private health insurance accounted for 45 percent; Medicare 23 percent; and other sources, such as workers' compensation, 15 percent.
AHRQ, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, improves the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care for all Americans. The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. For more information, go to Back Problems: Use and Expenditures for the U.S. Adult Population, 2007.
For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at Bob.Isquith@ahrq.hhs.gov or call (301) 427-1539.