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Post-Stroke Speech Problems Inflate Cost of Treatment

THURSDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Average medical costs for a stroke patient with language impairment (aphasia) are more than $1,700 higher in the first year after stroke than for a patient without aphasia, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of 3,200 Medicare patients in South Carolina who had an ischemic (blocked blood flow to the brain) stroke in 2004. They found that 12 percent of them had trouble speaking because of the stroke.

Help in regaining lost speech drive up medical bills, the researchers found. Medicare payments averaged over $20,700 for those with aphasia compared to about $18,700 for those without these language difficulties, an 8.5 percent difference.

The researchers also found that patients with aphasia were older and suffered more severe strokes, stayed in health care facilities 6.5 percent longer than those without impaired language, and had higher rates of illness and death.

The study appears Feb. 16 in the journal Stroke.

Each year in the United States, strokes leave about 100,000 people with language impairment.

"These findings are important because dramatic changes are occurring in health care reimbursement, specifically imposed caps on Medicare reimbursement for outpatient speech language pathology and physical therapy," study lead author Charles Ellis Jr., an associate professor of health sciences and research at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, said in a journal news release.

"Although the current reimbursement cap is $1,870 for these therapies, the financial burden of the cap remains a major limiting factor to access long-term rehabilitation for patients with persisting aphasia," he noted.

More information

The National Stroke Association has more about aphasia.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Stroke, news release, Feb. 14, 2012

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