Extreme Heat Costs U.S. Healthcare System $1B

Not only is the rise in temperature impacting our daily lives, but emergency visits and inpatient admissions for extreme heat cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $1 billion per year. With temperatures only increasing, how much more expensive will it be?

The Center for American Progress and Virginia Commonwealth University researchers conducted a study and released it on Monday where they looked at data between 2016 and 2020.

Using the number of excess hospital visits and the average hospital bill, they were able to calculate the average healthcare costs every summer.

"Unless we take action to mitigate the effects of climate change, heat events are projected to keep increasing in frequency, resulting in an even greater blow to public health," says Steven Woolf, M.D., a professor at the VCU School of Medicine and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

The data used was from the state of Virginia, which means that areas with worse heat conditions — like Nevada or Arizona — may have even higher numbers.

In Virginia, the researchers found that days with high heat led to 400 ambulatory care visits, 7,000 emergency department visits, and 2,000 heat-related hospitals visits every summer.

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been monitoring long-term patterns in the United States, and every decade since the 1960s has seen an increase in both frequency and duration of heat waves," says Stephen Fong, Ph.D., director of the VCU Integrative Life Sciences doctoral program and a professor in the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering at the VCU College of Engineering. He is also the co-author of the report.

And the world isn't cooling down anytime soon. Extreme heat has impacted the entire country in the past month, alongside the impact of wildfires from Canada.

While the situation now is not great, effects of heat are projected to continue to worsen.

- Fong

Heat-related illnesses include dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Extreme heat also affects those with heat disease, pulmonary disease, as well as other chronic conditions.

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