These 10 U.S. cities add billions to the nation's health care costs

Eric Pfeiffer
Yahoo News

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The top 10 cities guilty of prescription medication noncompliance (Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)



In the midst of the ongoing debate over the Affordable Care Act, one small fact is often overlooked that continues to cause a spike in the nation’s health care bill: Americans who don't follow their doctor's prescription guidelines cost the health care system billions in unnecessary costs.

Specifically,states that don’t follow prescription guidelines run up our national health care costs by $290 billion each year, according to a study conducted by the CVS Caremark pharmacy.

And beyond the price tag itself, misusing prescription guidelines has deadly human consequences, resulting in approximately 125,000 deaths to people with otherwise treatable ailments, according to the Journal of Applied Research.

According to a study conducted by the company MediSafe, these 10 U.S. cities lead the way in driving up health care costs each year, because so many people living their fail to follow the often simple dosage guidelines that come with any prescription medication:

1. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

2. Brooklyn, N.Y.

3. Baltimore, Md.

4. Phoenix, Ariz.

5. Philadelphia, Pa.

6. Houston, Texas.

7. Dallas, Texas.

8. San Antonio, Texas.

9. Washington, D.C.

10. Atlanta, Ga.

“We chose to analyze our data and reveal these findings in order to help raise awareness of non-adherence issues and encourage people to better manage their medication compliance,” MediSafe CEO, Omri Shor told Yahoo News in an email.

Shor’s company is behind a free app for mobile devices that lets users track their medication usage and guidelines online. For the study, MediSafe collected data from 1.7 million individual medication consumption cases across the country.

And while Fort Lauderdale is the worst offending city in the MediSafe study, as a state, Florida is only in the middle of the pack when it comes to total annual medical costs per capita. Each person in the Sunshine State racks up $7,156 in annual medical costs, compared with the national average of $6,815 according to a recent study by the Kaiser Foundation.

Washington, D.C., which placed 9th on the MediSafe list, also has the highest annual overall medical expenditure average in the country, according to the Kaiser study, edging out Massachusetts. Interestingly, Arizona has the nation’s second lowest overall annual medical costs, despite Phoenix placing No. 4 on the MediSafe noncompliance list.

MediSafe’s study also looked at which age groups are most responsible when it comes to following prescription guidelines. Perhaps not surprisingly, individuals from the ages of 20 to 30 are the worst at following prescription guidelines, while the oldest age block measured, ages 70 to 79, tested the best.

The Journal of Applied Research says the 125,000 deaths each year result from individuals who never fill their prescriptions, can’t identify their own medications, or simply ignore the instructions on their medications altogether. And for greater context, those numbers don’t even include the millions of Americans who abuse prescription medication each year.

The cost is significant for hospitals as well, with “patient noncompliance” costing U.S. hospitals an estimated $8.5 billion each year.

 “These results are a wakeup call,” Shor said. “Non-adherence is a costly issue, but more importantly, it’s affecting health outcomes and sometimes the cause behind fatalities.”

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