Extreme Heat Increases Summer Health Care Costs By $1 Billion In ‘Ominous Trajectory’

A new study from Virginia Commonwealth University published by the Center for American Progress has reported that the heat wave running rampant across the U.S. is significantly inflating health care costs. The authors of the study — an interdisciplinary group of faculty, staff and students from the university — estimated that heat events each summer are responsible for nearly 235,000 emergency department visits and over 56,000 hospital admissions for heat-related or heat-adjacent illnesses. In total, this is believed to add approximately $1 billion in health care costs across the country each summer.

To combat the hazardous effects of summer heat waves on U.S. health care, the study made a series of policy recommendations, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the raising of public awareness about the risks of extreme heat.

“The growing threat of extreme heat requires all levels of government and the private sector to confront the fundamental crisis of climate change by taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to pursue policies that mitigate the effects of extreme heat and the emergencies it creates,” the study reported. “These efforts are necessary across the United States, but especially in low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and other settings where vulnerability to severe weather and climate change is greatest.”

From heat exhaustion to heat cramps to heat stroke, the summer heat can cause a series of hospitalizing illnesses that include muscle pain, rapid pulse, nausea, dizziness, headache, confusion and loss of consciousness.

Incidents of extreme heat during the summer have been increasing through the years, fueled partly by climate change.

“The upward trend is not always noticeable from one year to the next, but long-term data clearly demonstrate an ominous trajectory,” the study reported. “Data compiled by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show a progressive increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of heat waves since the 1960s.”

The average heat wave season today is 49 days longer than it was in the 1960s, with the trend expected to worsen in the coming years without a significant reduction in carbon emissions. By 2036 through 2065, U.S. summers may include an additional 20 to 30 days of extreme heat.


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