The literature offers competing estimates of disease costs, with each study having its own data and methods. In 2007, the Dutch Center for Public Health Forecasting of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment provided guidelines that can be used to set up cost-of-illness (COI) studies, emphasising that most COI analyses have trouble accounting for comorbidity in their cost estimations. When a patient has more than one chronic condition, the conditions may interact such that the patient’s healthcare costs are greater than the sum of the costs for the individual diseases. The main objective of this work was to estimate the costs of 10 non-communicable diseases when their co-occurrence is acknowledged and properly assessed.
The French Echantillon Généraliste de Bénéficiaires (EGB) database was used to assign all healthcare expenses for a representative sample of the population covered by the National Health Insurance. COIs were estimated in a bottom-up approach, through regressions on individuals’ healthcare expenditure. Two-way interactions between the 10 chronic disease variables were included in the expenditure model to account for possible effect modification in the presence of comorbidity(ies).
The costs of the 10 selected chronic diseases were substantially higher for individuals with comorbidity, demonstrating the pattern of super-additive costs in cases of diseases interaction. For instance, the cost associated with diabetes for people without comorbidity was estimated at 1776 €, whereas this was 2634 € for people with heart disease as a comorbidity. Overall, we detected 41 cases of super-additivity over 45 possible comorbidities. When simulating a preventive action on diabetes, our results showed that significant monetary savings could be achieved not only for diabetes itself, but also for the chronic diseases frequently associated with diabetes.
When comorbidity exists and where super-additivity is involved, a given preventive policy leads to greater monetary savings than the costs associated with the single diagnosis, meaning that the returns from the action are generally underestimated.