To The Point

The hidden cost of depression

People with depression cost 3 times more to treat

We all know that mental and behavioral health play a critical role in not only the cost of healthcare, but also in how well a person can function both at work and at home. We looked at the higher costs of care associated with depression, despite a person’s underlying medical condition. One reason why this is so important is that we have historically focused on a person’s chronic disease first, and then looked at their behavioral health issues as a secondary focus. In reality, our data supports looking at the situation from the exact opposite point of view. We should be addressing the behavioral health needs of those we serve first, and then focus on their chronic disease.

In a sample of 227 patients managing multiple chronic conditions in one of MissionPoint Health Partner’s Medicare markets, we found that treatment of patients with depression costs over $4,000 more each year than treatment for those without depression, regardless of their underlying condition. Similarly, medication costs averaged over $700 more for depression sufferers. That’s a 53.5 percent jump in medical care costs for patients suffering from depression, accompanied by a 33.5 percent hike in medication costs. When combined, these amounts represent a nearly 50 percent increase in total treatment costs. To put these values into perspective, three patients without depression can be treated for about the same cost as two patients with depression.

Treatment costs and emergency room utilization are significantly higher with depression, regardless of a patient’s illnesses. By focusing on patients’ behavioral health issues, healthcare professionals can help reduce costs while simultaneously improving a person’s sense of well-being of their life in general. MissionPoint advocates a “whole person” approach when caring for patients, addressing all health and behavioral issues a patient is facing, including depression and anxiety.

By helping patients tackle their depression and anxiety in conjunction with chronic illness or recovery, we can help them move toward better health, faster, while decreasing costs, thus truly delivering value.

This To The Point was written by Jordan Asher, MD, MS, Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Innovation Officer. You can read more of Dr. Asher’s thoughts on value-based healthcare and healthcare reform at his blog, The Positive Contrarian.