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Alcohol consumption patterns and health care costs in an HMO

We examined the relationship between patterns of alcohol consumption and health care costs among adult members of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program (KPMCP) in Northern California. A telephone survey of a random sample of the KPMCP membership aged 18 and over was conducted between June 1994 and February 1996 (n=10,175). The survey included questions on sociodemographic characteristics, general and mental health status, patterns of past and current alcohol consumption; inpatient and outpatient costs were obtained from Kaiser Permanentes cost management information system. Results showed that current non-drinkers with a history of heavy drinking had higher health costs than other non-drinkers and current drinkers. The per person per year costs for non-drinkers with a heavy drinking history were $2421 versus $1706 for other non-drinkers and $1358 for current drinkers in 1995 US dollars. A history of heavy drinking has a significant effect on costs after controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, health status and health practices. Current drinkers have the lowest costs, suggesting that they may be more likely than non-drinkers to delay seeking care until they are sick and require expensive medical care.

Authors: Hunkeler EM; Hung YY; Rice DP; Weisner C; Hu T

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2001 Oct 1;64(2):181-90.

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