News release: Minnesota's yearly COPD costs top $1.9 billion

News Release
November 15, 2016

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Minnesota's yearly COPD costs top $1.9 billion

About half of these lung disease cases go undiagnosed

Roughly half of the Minnesotans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sometimes called emphysema and chronic bronchitis, have not been diagnosed with the disease.

COPD, an umbrella term for progressive lung diseases, often goes undiagnosed until people are hospitalized or have a flair-up. The disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness.

As part World COPD Day, Nov. 16, MDH has updated information on MN Data including rates of hospitalizations and deaths. The update includes maps showing COPD rates in Minnesota counties and by age and zip code in the metro area.

Another MDH report, Chronic Conditions in Minnesota: New Estimates of Prevalence, Cost and Geographic Variation for Insured Minnesotans, 2012 (PDF), recently found that Minnesota spent $1.9 billion or $31,100 per-person on COPD care in 2012. This accounted for 7.1 percent of all health care spending that year. This report also found that COPD treatment costs varied greatly between counties, with Freeborn County costs averaging about $25,600 per person per year and Stevens County costs averaging nearly $40,000, according to MDH analysis that used the Minnesota All Payer Claims Database (MN APCD).

“The costs and the suffering associated with COPD are largely preventable,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, commissioner of health. “We must continue our community-wide efforts to reduce smoking, while also helping individuals to quit and seek the care they need to identify and manage this deadly lung disease.”

COPD is the 5th-leading cause of death in Minnesota. Death rates for COPD have declined for men but remain unchanged for women.

“Early diagnosis and treatment of COPD is the key to reducing symptoms and ensuring a high quality of life,” said Dr. Jim Ehlen, American Lung Association in Minnesota Leadership Board Chair.

COPD was once more common among men, but women are closing the gap. This is due in part to increased use of tobacco among women after World War II. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Among adults with COPD, 40 percent are former smokers and 36 percent still smoke.

There are striking disparities in COPD deaths by race and ethnicity. COPD deaths are higher among Native Americans in Minnesota.

Twelve percent of Minnesota adults over age 75 have COPD. Catch COPD early by knowing the symptoms and talking with your doctor. Visit American Lung Association in Minnesota to learn more.

Managing COPD

  • Know the symptoms
  • See your doctors
  • Learn how to talk with your doctor
  • Learn to manage COPD
  • Find support

COPD symptoms

  • Chronic cough
  • Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds
  • Fatigue
  • Producing a lot of mucus
  • Wheezing


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications