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Many Americans With Rheumatic Disease Face Financial, Lifestyle Pressures

MONDAY, Sept. 30, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- A new survey shows that rheumatic diseases can be crippling both physically and financially as patients struggle to live with the debilitating conditions.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 54 million U.S. adults and as many as 300,000 children are living with a rheumatic disease. This includes conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, osteoarthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and hundreds of lesser known diseases.

The Rheumatic Disease Patient Survey, conducted by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and published online recently, found that six out of 10 respondents said they had difficulty affording treatment and about two-thirds said their disease limited their activity and lifestyle.

"These findings make clear that Americans living with rheumatic disease -- regardless of age, gender or income level -- struggle to find affordable care," said Dr. Paula Marchetta, president of the ACR.

"To address these challenges, it is crucial for patients, clinicians and policymakers to work together to improve access to rheumatology care so that patients can live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives," she said in an ACR news release.

More than 1,500 U.S. adults answered the online survey in June. Key findings include:

  • 90% had health insurance, but 60% had trouble paying for drugs and care.
  • Nearly 50% said their insurance provider made them try and fail treatments that insurance would pay for before doctors could prescribe other therapy, a process called step therapy.
  • 25% had yearly out-of-pocket costs that exceeded $1,000, and 6% said they had costs of more than $5,000.
  • Nearly 60% were being treated by a rheumatologist, but 75% of these had to wait 30 days or more before getting an appointment.
  • About 64% said their disease affected their ability to do simple tasks like eating, getting dressed, cooking or running errands.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more on rheumatic disease.

-- Steven Reinberg

SOURCE: American College of Rheumatology, new release, Sept. 13, 2019

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