Objective To estimate the societal economic burden and the governmental budgetary impact of the following visual disorders among US adults aged 40 years and older: visual impairment, blindness, refractive error, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and primary open-angle glaucoma.
Design We estimated 3 components of economic burden: direct medical costs, other direct costs, and productivity losses. We used private insurance and Medicare claims data to estimate direct medical costs; epidemiologic evidence from multiple published sources to estimate other direct costs, such as nursing home costs; and data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation to estimate productivity losses. We used budgetary documents and our direct medical and other direct cost estimates to approximate the governmental budgetary impact.
Results We estimated that the annual total financial burden of major adult visual disorders is $35.4 billion ($16.2 billion in direct medical costs, $11.1 billion in other direct costs, and $8 billion in productivity losses) and that the annual governmental budgetary impact is $13.7 billion.
Conclusions Major visual disorders among Americans older than 40 years result in substantial economic costs for the US economy. Well-designed public health programs may have the ability to reduce this burden in the future.