In recent years, we have successfully been spreading the word about sleep apnea, but there’s still a long way to go. That’s based on a new study of sleep apnea insurance claims published by the nonprofit organization FAIR Health.

The analysis looked at 25 billion privately billed insurance claims from 2014 to 2017. The claims showed the patterns of sleep apnea, including who it affects, what health conditions are associated with it, and how it’s treated.

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Dramatic Increases, but Still Few Claims

The headline of the analysis focuses on the dramatic increase in sleep apnea claims in recent years. And they are astounding. In rural areas, the claims rose 911%, while in urban areas, claims rose 839%, for an overall increase of 850%. That is an amazing increase in just the three years of the study.

But what the headline neglects to mention is that sleep apnea claims still account for a quite small portion of the overall claims. In rural areas, claims rose from 0.2% to 1.98%, while in urban areas the increase was from 0.13% to 1.24%, and overall the claims rose from 0.14% to 1.33%.

That is still a very small proportion of all claims, especially given how significantly sleep apnea can impact your overall health, leading to many secondary health causes. Detecting, diagnosing, and treating sleep apnea can help safeguard your health in many ways.

Who Develops Sleep Apnea?

The analysis looked at who was making the claims for sleep apnea. It turns out that men still overwhelmingly report sleep apnea. They account for 65% of all claimants, with women representing just 35%.

The age group most likely to make claims for sleep apnea was 51-60 years in age, accounting for 31% of claims. Patients age 61 to 70 accounted for 23% of all claims, and patients age 41 to 50 account for 20% of claims.

The states with the most sleep apnea claims as a proportion of total claims were scattered across the country. Maryland had the highest proportion of claims, followed by Idaho, Utah, Arkansas, and Iowa. The lowest proportion of sleep apnea claims was reported in New Hampshire, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Hawaii.

Related Health Claims

Sleep apnea isn’t a condition that appears on its own. It’s common for people with sleep apnea to develop other serious health problems, so it makes sense that people with sleep apnea are likely to have other health related claims. The most common claims related to sleep apnea were:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Respiratory and chest symptoms
  • Dorsalgia (a form of spinal pain)
  • High cholesterol
  • General fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Cardiac dysrhythmias

More than half of these symptoms are directly related to sleep apnea. These are also health claims that are common in the general population, and better screening and diagnosis of sleep apnea may help improve the overall health of Americans considerably.

Expensive Treatment

Because it’s based on insurance claims, the analysis also looked at how much various treatment options cost. The three most expensive pieces of treating equipment were all related to CPAP. Starting with the most expensive, they were the CPAP machines themselves, air filters for CPAP machines, and masks for CPAP machines.

With so many expensive pieces to the treatment, it seems that people looking for economical sleep apnea treatment should eschew CPAP and consider oral appliances, which have less related equipment and tend to be more durable.

Want More Information about Sleep Apnea Treatment?

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are looking for information about your sleep apnea treatment options in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.