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AFib Costs, Medicare Impact Detailed

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 23, 2011

Despite the high costs and heavy demand for atrial fibrillation services, states aren't providing their residents with the resources to address and manage the chronic disease, research suggests.

AFib in America: State Impact Reports identifies key state-by-state statistics, resources and state health department programs related to the impact of AFib. It was written by The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.

AFib is the most common form of heart arrhythmia, affecting 2.5 million Americans, and its prevalence is expected to increase as the population ages. AFib increases risk for stroke by five times, worsens other heart diseases, and doubles the risk of death. Patients with AFib tend to use more healthcare services than patients without AFib, including time in the hospital, the report says.

Medicare payments where AFib was the primary diagnosis totaled almost $2.3 billion in 2007, of which nearly half of the costs were related to hospital inpatient stays, according to the report.

"Atrial fibrillation is costly and can become debilitating as it worsens, yet it does not share the same priority on the public health agenda that other chronic diseases have," said Prof. Christy Ferguson, of the Department of Health Policy, School of Public Health and Health Services, GWU. "This report calls attention to the lack of resources about AFib, alerting policymakers, state health officials, and other health leaders to better educate residents about this common but misunderstood disease."

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