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Report finds Medicaid costs for treating asthma rising

ALBANY - New York's asthma-related Medicaid expenditures rose more than 26 percent in the last five years, as the state's overall annual asthma bill topped $1.3 billion for medical costs and lost productivity, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

"Asthma isn't just costly, it can be lethal," DiNapoli said. "For the New Yorkers fighting this chronic disease, a flare-up can mean missing work or school and too many late night emergency room visits. The Medicaid cost to taxpayers for treating asthma has jumped and the prevalence of asthma among older Medicaid recipients is especially high. The state needs to better understand asthma trends and better target publicly funded initiatives, particularly for Hispanic, African-American and the poorest New Yorkers struggling with this disease."

Roughly 1.7 million people in New York suffer from asthma, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). New York's $55 billion Medicaid program enrolls approximately one in four New York state residents, including 559,000 diagnosed with asthma, and spent $532 million on asthma care in 2013.

For Medicaid recipients, New York's highest asthma rates were in the Bronx and four upstate counties: Schenectady, Clinton, Fulton and Rensselaer.