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Calculating The Cost Of Cardiac Arrest In America

Despite being considered a “very highly developed” nation, the U.S. is lacking when it comes to medical care. When you think about the fact that methadone treatment success rates are up to almost 90%, the importance of affordable healthcare becomes apparent. But we are the only country out of 58 in that category that does not offer universal healthcare for its citizens. Unfortunately, most illnesses strike quick, fast, and without warning; for the more than 350,000 people that suffer cardiac arrests outside of the hospital each year, the costs can rise exponentially.

An Arresting Financial Situation

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when heart function ceases abruptly and without warning; because the heart is no longer able to pump blood to the rest of the body, death will occur without intervention. Generally speaking, this event costs Americans $2.2 billion in direct hospital costs each year.

If your SCA occurs outside of the hospital, you can expect to see your individual number climb. Due to the advanced equipment and drugs associated with first responders, the average cost of calling an EMT is approximately $1,063 per patient; if you’re a part of the lucky 15% who survive to hospital discharge with good neurological function, you can tack on an additional $37,000 for hospital costs and fees. Even if you die, your family will be forced to pony up another $8,700 to the hospital. Unsurprisingly, these unpaid medical bills can lead to bankruptcy; two million Americans are affected by just that scenario every year.

Saving And Scrounging

An estimated 76% of Americans are living with little to no emergency savings stashed away; few people make enough money in a single year to cover those costs, forcing them to suffer the severe financial fallout should they fall ill or require emergency medical services.

Ironically, these costs are also harming our society as a whole. The overall economic burden caused by SCA and OHCA (out-of-hospital cardiac arrest) is enormous, totaling approximately $4.5 billion in direct costs and a conservative estimate of $450 billion in indirect costs. That means that every 1% increase in the OHCA survival rate represents $4.5 billion in savings to our economy; because people are able to continue living, they continue to make wages and pay taxes back into the system. By upgrading EMS tools to state-of-the-art models, the return on investment for the receiving hospitals — and the community itself — is substantial.

There are ways to prevent this expensive outcome from occurring in the first place; cardiac catheterization is a valuable tool in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, helping to catch problems before they lead to SCA. Unfortunately, many people resist the urge to call an ambulance or head to the emergency room due to these exorbitant costs, which lowers the survival rate even further. When you assign a value to a human life, everyone starts to focus on the figures rather than the person.

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