More risk factors for heart disease increase Medicare cost

Orlando, Fla. Preventing heart disease risk factors in younger adults could be a money-saving investment for the federal Medicare program, researchers reported in two studies presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2003.

The studies found that people who had cardiovascular risk factors identified during middle age, had increasing Medicare costs after age 65 and during the last year of their life. Most previous studies have assessed health care costs in the years immediately after risk assessment.

"Even if they live far longer, people who enter middle age with lower heart disease risk factors cost Medicare less money," said lead author of one study Kiang Liu, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Liu's study found that Medicare spent an average $18,604 to treat cardiovascular disease in men over age 65 who had none of the six major controllable risk factors when screened at middle age. Costs for men with three or more risk factors in middle age were more than twice as high: $38,044. Those with one to two risk factors had intermediate costs $28,483 for those with one risk factor and $28,632 for those with two. All costs were adjusted to year 2000 levels and for participants' baseline age, education and body-mass index. Drug costs not covered by Medicare were not included.

Women without any risk factors earlier in life cost Medicare an average $11,711 to treat cardiovascular disease from age 65 until death. Those with one risk factor cost $19,171; those with two cost $24,048; and those with three or more cost $38,059, the researchers reported.

In the two studies, investigators analyzed the Medicare costs before death among people who had been screened for heart disease risk factors when they were much younger.

Liu's study analyzed inpatient and outpatient Medicare costs in 1,246 men and 775 women who enrolled in Medicare from age

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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