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Diabetes, heart disease, and back pain dominate US health care spending

Just 20 conditions make up more than half of all spending on health care in the United States, according to a new comprehensive financial analysis that examines spending by diseases and injuries.

The most expensive condition, diabetes, totaled $101 billion in diagnoses and treatments, growing 36 times faster than the cost of ischemic heart disease, the number-one cause of death, over the past 18 years. While these two conditions typically affect individuals 65 and older, low back and neck pain, the third-most expensive condition, primarily strikes adults of working age.

These three top spending categories, along with hypertension and injuries from falls, comprise 18% of all personal health spending, and totaled $437 billion in 2013.

This study, published today in JAMA, distinguishes spending on public health programs from personal health spending, including both individual out-of-pocket costs and spending by private and government insurance programs. It covers 155 conditions.

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