Study: Screening older adults for OSA could save money

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

DARIEN, Ill. – Older adults with undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea access healthcare more frequently and at a higher cost than those without, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

By reviewing a sample of Medicare claims data, researchers found those with untreated sleep apnea had greater health care utilization and costs across all points of service, including inpatient, outpatient, emergency and prescription medications in the year leading up to their sleep apnea diagnosis.

Medicare patients with sleep apnea were also more likely to suffer from other ailments than those without the sleep disorder. Sleep apnea is linked to an increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression.

The study authors, including researchers at the University of Maryland and Columbia University, suggest that insurers, legislators and health system leaders consider routine screening for sleep apnea in older patients.

“Sleep disorders represent a massive economic burden on the U.S. health care system,” said lead author Emerson Wickwire, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and director of the insomnia program at the University of Maryland Medical Center–Midtown Campus. “Medicare beneficiaries with obstructive sleep apnea cost taxpayers an additional $19,566 per year. It’s important to realize that costs associated with untreated sleep disorders are likely to continue to accrue year after year, which is why our group focuses on early recognition and treatment.”