When planning for the future, it is pivotal to secure against the most obvious threats, as well as the not so conspicuous ones.
The same can be said when creating a personal or corporate health insurance plan. Knowing the less obvious threats is important to protect against a wide range of injuries and illnesses; however, it is the most pressing health concerns that pose a more clear and present danger.
Chronic disease is the leading cause of both disability and death in Australia, Medibank recently announced
Australia's largest insurance provider – currently in the throes of a flotation on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) – named the illness as the biggest health risk, affecting more than 14 per cent of all its members.
What is chronic disease?
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) specified some of the forms chronic disease can take, as identified in a paper by the National Public Health Partnership.
Some common chronic disease illnesses include:
- Ischaemic heart disease (coronary heart disease);
- Type 2 diabetes;
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
- Lung cancer;
- Colorectal cancer;
- Chronic kidney disease;
- Oral disease;
AIHW explained: "These conditions pose a significant burden in terms of morbidity, mortality and health care costs in Australia, and are amenable to preventive measures."
Chronic disease risks
According to AIHW, around 9 in every 10 deaths are related to chronic disease. Medibank Chief Medical Officer Dr Ian Boyd explained that the Australian health insurance industry needs to help to confront the challenge of limiting the disease.
"We need to transform the way we respond to chronic disease, to make sure that as individuals live longer, they also live in better health," he explained.
Medibank said it paid out almost $600 million for the treatment of chronic disease-related illnesses during the 2014 financial year. This is almost double the payout in 2005, when the total was $332 million.
Of this total expenditure in health insurance claims, osteoarthritis made up almost half of it ($272 million), making it easily the most costly treatment as a whole. Following this was coronary heart disease ($132 million) and depression ($49 million), according to Medibank.
For people assessing the broader risks, chronic kidney disease was the most common form of the illness, accounting for 36 per cent of chronic disease-related hospital admissions among Medibank customers. Oral disease was some way off in second place with 18 per cent and depression was the third most common with 17 per cent.