- The annual costs of treating Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older for three bacterial infections caused by pathogens in public water systems may now reach more than $2 billion for 80,000 cases, a study published Monday in the Journal of Public Health Policy suggests.
- From 1991 through 2006, hospitals that treated these patients for the studied infections received an average of $600 million per year, according to the researchers from Tufts University.
- Antibiotic resistance was found to substantially increase the cost of each hospitalization for pneumonia from pseudomonas, mycobacteria infection, and Legionnaire's disease.
The findings complement the World Health Organization's advocacy for healthier environments to prevent diseases and premature deaths. In 2012, unhealthy living or working environments affected 12.6 million deaths, a recent WHO report showed.
Hospitalization costs and Medicare charges for each of the studied infections were financially impacted by antibiotic resistance, which increased the per case costs from $45,840 and $14,920 to $60,870 and $16,609, respectively, according to the analysis. Antibiotic resistance was recorded in nearly 2% of cases and each of these patients were between 10% and 40% more costly than patients with non-resistant infections.
Previous studies have linked infections by antibiotic resistant pathogens with more costly hospitals charges, longer hospitalizations and a greater risk of death, the researchers at Tufts University noted.
Federal health officials have urged Congress to provide funding for drug development processes to combat antibiotic resistance, calling it an international problem that requires immediate attention. Also, the National Institutes of Health last week launched a competition with $20 million in prizes for participants to design diagnostic tests that can "identify and characterize antibiotic resistant bacteria" and distinguish between viral and bacterial infections with the goal of reducing the amount of unnecessary antibiotics used.
The study was prompted by the ongoing water crisis in Flint, MI where several residents were exposed to lead poisoning. HHS expanded the state's Medicaid coverage in March to those impacted by the lead exposure and includes lead-blood level monitoring.