Compensation helps alleviate the financial burden of fighting a disease like COPD

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on June 25th, 2020

COPD is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases associated with lifelong economic burden without a cure. A key step in increasing awareness of the burden of COPD is obtaining comprehensive and reliable information regarding the overall financial costs imposed by the disease.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and other lung conditions that block the airflow, stiffen lungs, and make breathing difficult.

Cigarette smoke is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but research suggests occupational exposures are likely to play a role. Workplace exposure to airborne toxicants such as asbestos may lead to acute and chronic pulmonary inflammation.

The majority of costs associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are associated with hospitalizations

There are several reports, utilizing various national surveys that have estimated the medical costs of COPD. Costs increase with increasing severity of the disease, and hospital stays account for the majority of these costs.

In the United States, more than 16.4 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but millions more may have the disease without even knowing it.

According to the studies available on the economic cost of COPD, data indicate that:

  • Patients with stage I COPD experienced the lowest direct cost of $1,681 per patient per year
  • Stage II patients $5,037 per patient per year
  • Stage III had the highest cost of $10,812 per patient per year

COPD is a severely disabling and irreversible condition with lasting impact on the quality of life and working ability of an individual. However, treatment can help slow the progression of the condition and control the symptoms. Researchers examined records to explore the incidence of emergency department visits and subsequent hospital admissions related to COPD and found that the costs are significant and increasing. The high hospital costs are driven by two distinct groups:

  • Patients who require acute medical treatment for acute exacerbations of COPD
  • Patients with functional limitations who require assisted living facilities upon discharge

COPD affects millions of people, and the total annual U.S. payment for care is $6.6 billion

A cost-of-illness study estimated the total annual payment for COPD in the United States to be $6.6 billion of which:

  • Approximately one-third is due to the cost of long-term oxygen therapy
  • One-quarter is attributed to hospitalizations and inpatient physician services
  • One-seventh is due to nursing home-stays

Other annual costs are:

  • Outpatient physician visits - $480 million
  • Prescription medications - $462 million
  • Home healthcare - $309 million
  • Emergency department visits - $148 million - on a per-visit basis, the cost is $237
  • Outpatient diagnostic procedures - $55 million
  • Nursing home care - estimated to be $950 million, with an average yearly cost of $17,800 for nursing home care
  • COPD-related hospice care - estimated to be $28 million

As the disease progresses, patients can experience exacerbations leading to a decreased quality of life, and increased costs

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may experience an acute worsening of respiratory symptoms that result in additional therapy. This event is called COPD exacerbation or flare-up. Commonly reported symptoms of an oncoming exacerbation are:

  • Worsening breathlessness
  • Increased wheeze and chest tightness
  • Increased cough and sputum
  • Change in the color of sputum
  • Reduced exercise tolerance
  • Fluid retention
  • Increased fatigue

Frequent exacerbations, mainly in patients with severe COPD, determine significantly higher resource use and treatment cost. The costs of exacerbations that require hospitalization increase dramatically compared with those that can be treated in an ambulatory setting. Near the end of life, COPD patients can receive hospice or palliative care - which is comfort care for people with a life expectancy of six months or less.

When it is triggered by asbestos exposure, COPD may weaken the lungs, making a person more susceptible to additional asbestos-related diseases

Inhaled asbestos fibers deposit on lung surfaces, but because the fibers are insoluble, they do not dissolve into lung fluids, nor can they be destroyed by the body's defense system.

Thus, asbestos fibers accumulate in human tissue through repeat exposure, causing inflammation and DNA damage.

COPD is a progressive and ultimately fatal deterioration of lung function.

When it is triggered by past occupational exposure to asbestos, the condition entails greater health risks, such as:

If the sufferer had repeated exposure to asbestos fibers in the workplace, there is a considerable risk of COPD later developing into a form of lung cancer.

If your working environment has caused chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it is likely you could file a claim for compensation

COPD treatment costs and other out-of-pocket payments can result in significant debts that last long after treatment has ended. COPD patients can cover the costs related to their disease, including medical treatment, hospital stay expenses, pain and suffering, and their end of life care costs by seeking legal compensation.

If asbestos exposure is certainly the cause of your disease we will stand by you and fight relentlessly until you receive the justice and compensation you deserve. Many companies involved in making asbestos products that have gone out of business or filed bankruptcy have set aside money in special funds specifically to compensate asbestos victims and their families. Asbestos trusts are there for those people and their families suffering from the effects of an asbestos-related disease.

The threat of asbestos exposure is especially present in the military, where branches such as the Navy still see high rates of asbestos use and subsequent contact. No matter which branch you served in, exposure to asbestos was a serious risk that can potentially lead to serious long-term lung conditions. So if you have served and were exposed to asbestos during your enlistment, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides options for both health monitoring and treatment. Veterans diagnosed with COPD due to asbestos exposure may get lifetime medical care from any facility in the VA network.