Univera: WNY's asthma bill pegged at $242M

March 23, 2012 Updated Mar 23, 2012 at 7:17 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by Tracey Drury, Buffalo Business First Reporter

March 23, 2012 Updated Mar 23, 2012 at 7:17 AM EDT

Adults in the upstate region register higher rates of asthma than the statewide average, with direct medical costs in the Western New York reaching $242 million annually, according to a new report by Univera Healthcare.

Though older adults above 65 were hospitalized more due to asthma than younger residents of the region, individuals between 18-64 made more frequent visits to the emergency room for treatment.

The report, The Facts About Adult Asthma in Upstate New York, found 11.6 percent of adults in the upstate region between the ages of 18-64 have asthma, compared with 9.7 percent statewide.

According to the report, those with the greatest chance of developing the chronic disease include women, blacks, 18- to 24-year-olds and adults making less than $15,000 annually.

The report also stresses the importance of developing a care plan with primary care providers, pointing to 250 asthma-related deaths statewide; as well as direct medical costs in the upstate region alone of $793 million annually for adults with asthma. Additional financial impact includes indirect costs, such as workplace absenteeism and lost productivity.

"By taking the right medication, avoiding triggers and being able to recognize the symptoms and know what to do in the event of a sudden attack, asthma patients can live a normal life and avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room," said Dr. Richard Vienne, Univera's vice president and chief medical officer.

In the Western New York region, the rate for adults with asthma was 11.4 percent, dropping to 9.5 percent for adults 65 and older. The direct medical costs for this region are $242 million, highest among the five upstate regions studied.

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