U.S. patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) who are not dependent on dialysis have high or higher out-of-pocket expenses than other costly diseases such as cancer and stroke.
In addition, researchers found that chronic kidney disease is also linked to much higher total direct healthcare expenditures than people not affected by the three diseases, demonstrating that kidney disease places a serious economic strain on patients.
The study, “Non-dialysis dependent chronic kidney disease is associated with high total and out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures,” was published in the journal BMC Nephrology.
While the need for dialysis among kidney patients is known to be linked to substantial healthcare costs, researchers at Loyola University Chicago noted that high costs for healthcare is likely a problem starting before a patient becomes dependent on dialysis.
Many patients with chronic kidney disease also have other conditions which may drive costs up. Since cancer and stroke are among the costliest conditions among Medicare patients, the research team chose to compare chronic kidney disease (also rated a highly costly disease in Medicaid) to the two conditions, and also compared all three groups to people without any of the three health issues.
Researchers used data from the 2011–2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The survey held information about 52 chronic kidney disease patients, 870 cancer patients, and 1,104 stroke patients. The number of people in the survey without the three conditions was 72,241. All participants were age 21 or older.
The average age among patients with any of the three conditions was higher than among the other survey participants. Chronic kidney disease patients were on average 65.5 years old, and 65.2 percent had private health insurance.
Their total healthcare expenditures were $12,877, while cancer patients had total healthcare costs of $7,428. The yearly average out-of-pocket costs were also highest among patients with chronic kidney disease — $1,439, compared to $748 for stroke patients.
Comparing expenses to income, kidney disease patients also had the highest out-of-pocket expense burden and the largest difference in out-of-pocket expenses compared to patients without kidney disease.
Patients with cancer had the highest difference in direct expenditures compared to patients without the three conditions — $8,608 higher than other patients.
The study demonstrates that treatments to reduce the progression of chronic kidney disease are badly needed to reduce the economic burden of the disease. “Future research should examine interventions for preventing the onset or progression of CKD and reducing the out-of-pocket expenditure burden for adults with CKD,” the authors concluded.