America’s Top 10 Most Expensive Medical Conditions

It may be a cliche but the maxim “Health is wealth” is something that Americans as a nation should live by. If you will see for yourself the figures involved in treating some of the nation’s most expensive medical conditions, you will realize just how important it is to take care of your health.


This is especially true for medical conditions which are perfectly preventable. Why would you spend thousands of dollars per year in treating a health condition that you could have prevented in the first place by paying a little more attention to your health?

A Look Back at America’s Most Expensive Medical Conditions for 1996

To give you an idea about the top medical conditions which cost both the government and its private citizens billions of dollars a year to treat, take a look at the following list:

  1. Ischemic heart disease, 3.4 million conditions (costs $21.5 billion to treat)
  2. Motor vehicle accidents, 7.3 million conditions (costs $21.2 billion to treat)
  3. Acute respiratory infection, 44.5 million conditions (costs $17.9 billion to treat)
  4. Arthropaties, 16.8 million conditions (costs $15.9 billion to treat)
  5. Hypertension, 26 million conditions (costs $14.8 billion to treat)
  6. Back problems, 13.2 million conditions (costs $12.2 billion to treat)
  7. Mood disorders, 9 million conditions (costs $10.2 billion to treat)
  8. Diabetes, 9.2 million conditions (costs $10.1 billion to treat)
  9. Cerebrovascular disease, 2 million conditions (costs $8.3 billion to treat)
  10. Cardiac dysrhythmias [Heart arrhythmias], 2.9 million conditions (costs $7.2 billion to treat)

These are the 1996 figures according to The list was ranked according to the national expenditure, the number of bed days, the number of working days lost and the activity impairment. As you can see, even something which is as simple as a back problem can cost billions of dollars a year to treat. In effect, this would have a negative consequence to the economy because the more work days are lost, the less productive an employee becomes. Next, we will take a look at the most recent figures of which medical conditions are the most expensive ones to treat, what makes these illnesses costly to address and what can be done to avoid them.

The Top 10 Most Expensive Medical Conditions to Treat in the US

Based from the list above, it is quite easy to see just how impactful some medical conditions are in terms of their effects on the productivity of an employee. heart-diseaseFrom a practical perspective, let’s say that you are a single parent who earns the income for your household and you have just one child to take care of. If you have a chronic heart condition, you would need to slash off a significant amount of money from your household budget for visits to the doctor’s office, prescription medicines and hospital stays if one is medically required. For other medical conditions, the prescription medication which are needed to make sure that future ‘attacks’ do not occur will prove to be very costly in the end. Visits to clinics and emergency departments, hospital stays, home health care and similar expenditures would all add up – making it clear to see just why some of these medical conditions are considered to be the most expensive. Now, let us take a look at the top 10 most expensive medical conditions to treat in the US. The data is based from the information provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). All in all, these top 10 medical conditions cost the country about $500 billion to treat, and that is just for the year 2005.

1. Heart Conditions, $76 billion

The reality is that heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, and the worst part of it is that the condition is something which is completely preventable.  There are more than 80 million individuals who are suffering from one or more types of heart conditions or cardiovascular disease. If you do have a chronic heart condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, you would be required to spend a lot of time for visits to the doctor and even have a prolonged stay in the hospital.

trauma-disorders2. Trauma Disorders, $72 billion

Yet another medical condition which is very costly to address are trauma disorders, which are a result of vehicular accidents and violent incidents. When a patient suffers a trauma, a visit to the emergency room, a prolonged stay in the hospital and prescription medication need to be taken – and all these would add up to a significant amount of money.

3. Cancer, $70 billion

Yet another silent killer in the country is the ‘big C’ or cancer. It’s the second leading cause of death in the US which kills more than 500,000 individuals per year. As you can imagine, dealing with this disease is financially crippling because of the medical treatments and medications that a patient would be required to undergo [Cancer prevention].

4. Mental Disorders, $56 billion

mental-disordersBased from the figures provided by the American Psychiatric Association, an estimated 50 million individuals are diagnosed with mental health problems, the most common of which is depression. These mental disorders are severe enough to interfere with a person’s normal life – and as you can see from the figures, they are very costly to treat.

5. Asthma & Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, $54 billion

Although asthma and pulmonary problems are most common in children, it still costs more than $54 billion a year to treat this medical condition. If you do have asthma, you would need to spend time away from work, spend money on doctor’s visits and consultations and some even need to go through hospital admissions [Controlling asthma].

6. Type 1 & 2 Diabetes, $34 billion

Patients who do have chronic diabetes would need to spend their hard-earned bucks on prescription medication, outpatient treatment and frequent visits to the doctor. As of 2005, more than 14 million Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

7. High Blood Pressure, $42 billion

If heart disease is the number one killer, high blood pressure is the silent killer. The reason why this medical condition is very costly to high-blood-pressure1treat is because the early symptoms are difficult to diagnose. So when you finally know that you do have hypertension, it could already be leading to a heart failure or stroke.

8. Osteoarthritis & Other Diseases of the Joints, $34 billion

Joint diseases are particularly prevalent in the elderly, there are about 27 million adults in the US now with osteoarthritis and similar chronic joint symptoms. This can also hamper with your normal, day-to-day activities, which result to a number of days lost at work, thereby decreasing one’s productivity.

9. Back Problems, $32 billion

As seemingly insignificant as back problems are, the medical condition is still included among the top 10 most expensive medical conditions to treat in the US. Why is this so? It could be due to the fact that almost 70% of the adult population has experienced back pains at one point in their lives – and some conditions are bad enough to require patients to stay in the hospital.

10. Normal Childbirth, $32 billion

normal-childbirth1Finally, the tenth most expensive medical condition to treat is normal childbirth. Although it is not a medical condition by itself, a mother who is about to give birth would require hospitalization, as well as medical care and attention – that is why normal childbirth without complications and any surgical procedures performed are included in the list. All in all, these top 10 medical conditions are all expensive to treat when you look at it from an overall perspective. If you don’t want to spend a major part of your life making visits to the doctor’s office, then it is high time that you take care of your health so that you can veer away from the perfectly preventable diseases which cost thousands of dollars to treat and address.