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Chronic disease treatment costs expected to climb in Minnesota

ST. PAUL—The price tag for treating older Minnesotans for chronic diseases is projected to increase by billions over the next 10 years, according to a study released on Monday.

Analyzing the state's data on health insurance claims, the Minnesota Department of Health study concludes treating Minnesotans older than 60 for chronic diseases will cost $16.1 billion by 2023, up 65 percent from the $9.8 billion paid in 2014.

"This is more evidence that Minnesota will not be able to treat its way out of our current primary health challenge, which is chronic disease," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the state's health commissioner, in a news release. "Without a strong and continuing focus on preventing and managing chronic disease, both the costs and the impact on the quality of life for individuals and communities will only increase."

The study was commissioned by the Minnesota Legislature, which in 2015 directed the health department to analyze the costs of select conditions from 2009 to 2014 and project costs for the next 10 years. The analysis included diabetes, hypertension and dementia as well as treatment costs related to smoking exposure and obesity, which are risk factors for those conditions, according to the news release.

With the exception of smoking exposure, more Minnesotans and a higher percentage of Minnesotans were treated for these conditions in 2014 than in 2009, the study found.

But the study also found that per-person costs for diabetes, hypertension and dementia actually fell during that time, and the total cost for 2014 was about $209 million less than had been expected. The decline coincided with lower rates of hospitalization, it noted.

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