A chronic condition lasts a year or longer, limits what one can do and may require ongoing care. More than 125 million Americans have at least one chronic condition and 60 million have more than one condition. Examples of chronic conditions are diabetes, cancer, glaucoma and heart disease.
Many with different chronic conditions face common problems, including very high costs that are often not covered by insurance, and a complex health care system that it is difficult to use. Both private insurance plans and government programs are not easy to navigate.
Growing National Problem
The number of people with chronic conditions is growing at an alarming rate. In 2000, 20 million more people had one or more chronic conditions than the number originally estimated in 1996. By the year 2020, 25% of the American population will be living with multiple chronic conditions, and costs for managing these conditions will reach $1.07 trillion.
This chart projects a steady rise in the number of people with chronic conditions. The number of people with chronic conditions is projected to increase from 125 million in 2000 to 171 million in the year 2030.
The current health care system excels at responding to immediate medical needs such as accidents and severe injury and sudden bouts of illness. American health care is less expert at providing ongoing care to people with chronic conditions and improving their day-to-day lives.
What accounts for this dramatic growth in chronic conditions?
The large population of baby boomers is aging, and their health is beginning to deteriorate.
Advances in medical science such as vaccines and antibiotics have extended our life span, leaving more people vulnerable to chronic conditions related to aging such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, heart disease, as well as the limitations brought about by strokes.
At the other end of the age spectrum, some chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, are on the rise.