Total spending on trauma injuries, from such causes as automobile accidents and violence, doubled in the eight years between 1996 and 2003, reaching a cost level comparable to that of heart disease, according to federal estimates. Heart disease was the nation's highest-cost medical problem in 1996, with insurance companies, patients and government programs spending an estimated $58 billion for hospital care, doctor visits, home-health services and drugs. Trauma care, meanwhile, cost about $37.1 billion that year. But by 2003, trauma had become the costliest medical problem, consuming an estimated $71.6 billion in medical spending and topping the $67.8 billion spent on heart conditions, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality said. Cancer treatment, which about equaled trauma care in terms of total costs in 1996 ($37.7 billion), moved down the list in 2003, growing to an estimated total of $48.4 billion. See more data from AHRQ's annual Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. -- by Michael Romano
Trauma now nation's costliest medical problem
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