HealthDay News — More than $32 billion is spent in medical costs associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the United States each year, according to researchers.

The annual financial toll of COPD (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis) is expected to reach an estimated $49 billion by 2020, Earl Ford, MD, MPH, of the CDC’s division of population health, and colleagues reported in Chest.

In 2010, Medical costs associated with COPD were primarily paid for by Medicare, the researchers found. Medicare covered 51% of costs, whereas Medicaid paid for 25%, and private insurance covered 18%. Americans missed an estimated 16.4 million days of work due to COPD, resulting in additional costs of nearly $4 billion.

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The condition claimed almost 135,000 lives in the United States in 2010, roughly 80% of which were attributable to smoking. In 2011, nearly 13 million adults in the United States had COPD, the researchers estimated. However, nearly 24 million adults show signs of impaired lung function, suggesting COPD may be under-diagnosed.

“Costs attributable to COPD and its sequelae are substantial and are projected to increase through 2020. Evidence-based interventions that prevent tobacco use and reduce clinical complications of COPD may result in potential decreased COPD-attributable costs,” the researchers wrote.


  1. Ford E et al. Chest. 2014; doi: 10.1378/chest.14-0972