While senators in Washington work on changing the Affordable Care Act, the American people continue to get older and, in some ways, sicker.
Government researchers report that the number of U.S. adults who have been told they have kidney disease increased 11% between 2011 and 2015, to about 4.9 million in 2015.
About 2% of all U.S. adults have been told they have kidney disease, according to data from the National Health Interview Survey and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System website.
That apparent increase could be a statistical fluke, or the result of changes in the kinds fo medical tests doctors order.
But Fair Health, a New York-based health care cost tracking group, reported about a year ago that it was seeing a sharp increase in the number of kidney dialysis claims filed for working-age adults, including a 30% increase in dialysis claim rate for people ages 35 to 44.
If the increase in kidney health problems is real, it could cause problems for life insurance companies, health insurance companies and agents and advisors who help consumers with medically underwritten products, such as life insurance, long-term care insurance, annuities and critical illness insurance.
High blood pressure and diabetes can cause kidney disease. Kidney disease also has a relationship with many other health conditions that kill people, including cancer.
An increase in the number of people with serious kidney disease and related problems could reduce life expectancy, and cut annuity income payments.
(Image: Bram Janssens/Hemera)
An increase could also increase catastrophic health insurance payments, disability insurance benefits payments, life insurance death benefit payments and benefits payments linked to health-related annuity riders.
(Related: Broker: ACA Is Distracting Us From Health)
We tried to look at what's happening at the state-level, by comparing state-level CDC kidney disease prevalence data for 2011 and 2015.
To adjust for differences in how each state's population is aging, we looked only at data for people ages 45 to 54. We chose that age group because, even now, known kidney disease in younger people is somewhat uncommon. The CDC publishes little state-by-state kidney disease data for people in those younger age groups.
Even for people ages 45 to 54, the number of people with kidney disease is small enough that some states lack statistically reliable CDC survey data for that condition. The numbers in the states with data may fluctuate due to random factors.
For the 38 states that had statistically reliable data for the 45-54 age group in both 2011 and 2015, the median change in the kidney disease prevalence rate was zero.
For five states, however, the actual number of people in that age group with kidney disease, and the prevalence rate, increased more than 50%, or about 1 percentage points to 2 percentage points.
Here's a list of the five states with the biggest prevalence increases in percentage terms, or the difference between the 2011 and 2015 prevalence rates, divided by the 2011 prevalence rate.
2011 Rate: 1.8%
2015 Rate: 2.9%
Percentage Increase: 61%
2011 Rate: 1.6%
2015 Rate: 2.6%
Percentage Increase: 63%
3. Washington state
2011 Rate: 2.1%
2015 Rate: 3.5%
Percentage Increase: 67%
2011 Rate: 2%
2015 Rate: 3.4%
Percentage Increase: 70%
1. West Virginia
2011 Rate: 2.2%
2015 Rate: 3.9%
Percentage Increase: 77%
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