Summary

This report provides information about Australia's health-care expenditure on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, including that on patterns of expenditure by health-care sector, type of musculoskeletal condition, age group, sex and over time.

The main findings of the report are that, in 2008-09:

  • In Australia, estimated health-care expenditure on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions totalled $5,690 million-the fourth most expensive disease group, accounting for 9% of total health-care expenditure allocated to hospital admitted patient services, out-of-hospital medical services and prescription pharmaceuticals ($65,129 million).
  • Osteoarthritis accounted for 29% of health-care expenditure on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions ($1,637 million), followed by back problems ($1,177 million or 21%), rheumatoid arthritis ($355 million or 6%) and osteoporosis ($306 million or 5%). The remaining expenditure (39%) was distributed across the broad range of 'other' musculoskeletal conditions.
  • More than half (54%) of the health-care expenditure on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions was on hospital admitted patient services ($3,091 million), followed by 30% on out-of-hospital medical expenses ($1,677 million) and 16% on prescription pharmaceuticals ($922 million).
  • The pattern of expenditure across health-care sectors varied markedly among musculoskeletal conditions. For example, the majority of expenditure for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis was on pharmaceuticals (77% and 63%, respectively) and the largest proportion for osteoarthritis was on admitted patient hospital services (77%).
  • Health-care expenditure on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions was greatest for people aged 65-74 ($1,245 million) although the per person expenditure was highest for people aged 75-84 (an average of $1,007 per person aged 75-84).
  • Health-care expenditure on these arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions overall was higher for females than males (an average of $301 per female compared with $229 per male).

It is difficult to compare absolute expenditure estimates over time due to data limitations and method changes; however, the patterns of expenditure by health sector have remained relatively stable, with expenditure on hospital admitted patient services being the dominant component of expenditure at all three time points in recent estimates (2000-01, 2004-05 and 2008-09).

Data are drawn from the AIHW Disease Expenditure Database, with a focus on estimates for 2008-09, the most recent year for which data are available.

The term 'expenditure' used in this report refers to expenditure through the health system that can be allocated by disease, and covers about 70% of total health-care expenditure in Australia. This method has various limitations, described in detail in the report, which mean that that the expenditure information presented here underestimates the total cost of arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions to the community. While these limitations affect the absolute estimates of disease expenditure (total dollars), they do not notably affect the relative expenditure (or rankings) across disease groups.