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In 2016, Americans spent an estimated $3.2 trillion on healthcare services. That's more than any other developed nation in the world. Our excessive spending stems from two factors: the millions of Americans with health conditions that require medical care, and the lack of regulation over how much healthcare providers can charge for Americans' medical care.
As we've talked about before, our wallets are at the whim of profit-driven healthcare providers. You could pay thousands of extra dollars for an emergency because hospitals decide how much to charge you. It's a sickening reality of our healthcare system, but it's a problem that won't be fixed overnight.
So, what can you do to reduce your healthcare costs today?
First, find a health insurance plan that covers your medical needs. Second, use your health insurance to pay for services that help you manage your health. If you practice preventive care, you can avoid expensive health problems down the road.
The Most Costly Diseases In America
The most common health conditions in America -- heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis -- are also the most costly. While your genetics might put you at risk for certain diseases, you're at even higher risk if you exercise irregularly, have poor nutrition, use tobacco, and drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. -- and more than 1 in 3 Americans have it. The biggest contributors to heart disease are tobacco use, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition.
Nearly one-quarter of Americans have diabetes without knowing it. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, and it can lead to heart disease, eye problems, nerve damage, and other debilitating medical conditions.
Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It also increases the risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and immune system problems. If you're a smoker, you may also ending up paying a higher cost for your health insurance plan.
Last week, the American Medical Association voted to classify obesity as a disease -- which means that 90 million Americans have a serious medical condition that can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and even cancer.
Traffic accidents are the main cause of trauma-related injuries, but this category also includes injuries from falls, gunshot wounds, and other accidents.
Although cancer death rates have been falling for more than 10 years, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in the U.S. Cancer can develop from countless environmental, genetic, and behavioral factors, but it can also be controlled through early detection and treatment. To avoid high medical costs related to cancer treatment, get regular cancer screenings from your doctor. (Some cancer screenings are 100% free through your health insurance plan.)
According to the CDC, half of Americans have a diagnosable mental disorder such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism, dementia, and schizophrenia. The highest expenditures for mental disorders go toward prescription drugs and outpatient services.
Arthritis / Joint Disorders
Arthritis is the most common cause of disability for American adults. Arthritis and joint disorders can be treated with medication, therapy, and costly procedures like knee and hip replacements. However, regular exercise is the best treatment for reducing joint pain and increasing flexibility and strength.
COPD / Asthma
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to a group of diseases -- including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and sometimes asthma -- that cause breathing-related problems. COPD can be caused by smoking, air pollution, respiratory infections, and genetics.
More than 11 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, but **24 million** Americans may have COPD without knowing it.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, and it can develop from other chronic disease like diabetes. Hypertension is dangerous because it doesn't have any symptoms, and it can be made much worse by a poor diet and inactivity. To prevent the damage that hypertension can cause, it's crucial that you get your blood pressure checked regularly.
Childbirth is the No. 1 reason for hospital visits in the U.S. C-sections are becoming more popular, but they cost 50% more than regular births.
Lower back pain is typically caused by injury, but it can also result from arthritis and other medical conditions. Back pain can be treated with medications, therapy, and regular exercise.
The Challenge Of Calculating Overall Costs
It's difficult to determine exactly how much we spend on diseases in the U.S. First, certain diseases fall within multiple categories. For example, "smoking-related diseases" can include cancer and heart diseases, and a diabetic can also have high blood pressure.
Second, the most costly conditions vary by age. For Americans aged 18 to 64, the five most costly conditions in 2012 were trauma-related disorders, cancer, mental disorders, heart disease, and arthritis. For Americans over 65, the top five diseases were heart disease, cancer, arthritis, trauma-related disorders, and COPD/asthma.
Lastly, the numbers vary depending on how and when they're calculated. Healthcare expenditures change every year, and research organizations use different variables to calculate how much we spend on each disease.
But no matter how many billions we pay for medical care, the bottom line is that we're paying way too much. To avoid costly medical bills for you and your family, find a health insurance plan that helps you manage your health and pay for costly diseases. The right health plan could save your wallet and your life!