High-risk health status associated with raised healthcare costs
To evaluate the association between health risks and medical care costs in an Australian population.
11,568 members of an Australian private medical insurance plan who completed a health risk appraisal (HRA) between 1995 and 1999. A group of 8,244 age-matched and sex-matched nonparticipants were used as a control group.
HRA data were used to stratify participants as i) high risk (three or more of the following health risk factors: smoking, physical activity, alcohol use, blood pressure, cholesterol level, weight, medical problems and absence due to illness), ii) medium risk (two risk factors) and iii) low risk (none or one risk factor), and average healthcare costs between 1995 and 1999 were compared for each risk group.
- Low-risk participants had the lowest total healthcare costs between 1995 and 1999 (total cost AU$377).
- Medium-risk ($484) and high-risk participants ($661) had the highest total healthcare costs during the study.
- Low-risk participants had lower total healthcare costs than the control group ($377 vs $438).
- In total, 13.5% of total healthcare costs were associated with excess risk (high-risk and medium-risk).
What does this mean?
The more risk factors an individual has, the most costly their healthcare. Health risk levels may have underestimated the impact of excess risks in this population as the HRA assessed only eight health risks.