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Half of People with Rheumatic Disease Have Trouble Paying for Treatment

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Having health insurance doesn't always help to pay for some diseases, such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis and other joint-related diseases, a new study says.

About 60 percent of patients suffering from rheumatic diseases like osteoarthritis and lupus said they struggle to pay to treat their illnesses, according to a survey released this month by the American College of Rheumatology. And two-thirds reported having the physical ability to eat, get dressed, cook and do chores limited by their condition.

These findings follow a 2018 state-by-state report card that graded the ability for people with rheumatic diseases to live with independence.

Almost two-thirds of patients reported that their rheumatic disease limited their ability to perform simple tasks such as eating, getting dressed, cooking, or running errands.

"These findings make clear that Americans living with rheumatic disease -- regardless of age, gender, or income level -- struggle to find affordable care," Paula Marchetta, president of the ACR, said in a press release.

Rheumatic diseases include more than 100 conditions that cause pain and damage to the joints, tendons, ligaments, bones and muscles, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The survey included more than 1,500 adults in the United States living with rheumatic disease. They were asked about the health care affordability, access, as well as how the condition has affected their lifestyles.

Half of the respondents reported engaging step therapy to treat their condition. Under this approach, patients receive unproven therapies preferred by insurance companies before doctor-prescribed therapies have been approved. These therapies often fail, leaving the patient desperate for an effective alternative.

About one-quarter reported having out-of-pocket costs higher than $1,000 each year for treatment and 6 percent said those costs were higher than $5,000 annually.

In addition, nearly 60 percent are being treated or referred to seek treatment by a rheumatologist. But two-thirds that group were forced to wait longer than 30 days to get an initial appointment following the referral.

"To address these challenges, it is crucial for patients, clinicians, and policymakers to work together to improve access to rheumatology care so that patients can live longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives," Marchetta said.

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Schedule28 May 2022
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