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New York State forced to cough up more than $1 billion a year due to asthma

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Asthma is costing New York State nearly a half billion dollars in Medicaid payments to hospitals and treatment centers last year according to the State’s comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. However, “when all non-Medicaid hospital visits and lost productivity associated with the condition are added, the overall cost here jumps to $1.3 billion per year,” he stated.

Asthma is caused by spasms in the muscles surrounding the small airways in the lungs (bronchi) combined with increased mucus brought on by histamine produced by the body’s immune system in response to certain allergens making it hard to breathe. Typical symptoms include wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest.

For the nearly 2 million residents in New York suffering from asthma, flare-ups can mean missing work or school, as well as numerous visits to emergency rooms. The highest prevalence, for some reason, seems to be in the Bronx and Schenectady

As a result, DiNapoli stated that “the state needs to better understand asthma trends and better target publicly funded initiatives, particularly for Hispanic, African-American and the poorest New Yorkers struggling with this disease.

In addition to reaching out to families who may not understand what causes the illness, as well as the best ways to treat it, Sally Findley, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health stressed the need for the state to improve overall air quality, including “planting more trees in urban areas.”

Note: Although asthma deaths fell from 330 in 2002 to 255 in 2011, the costs related to the disease has continued to rise, due partly to a 20% increase in the number of New Yorkers now enrolled in the Medicaid program.