Trends in Medicare Spending Near the End of Life

Edited by Jeffrey Geppert and Mark McClellan

in Themes in the Economics of Aging

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2001 | ISBN: 9780226902845
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226903330 | DOI:
Trends in Medicare Spending Near the End of Life

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This chapter presents quantitative evidence on the likely importance of improvements in health for reducing future health care costs, focusing on changes in mortality. The analysis yields three major conclusions. First, the rate of spending growth was similar for survivors and decedents—actually slightly larger for the oldest female survivors than for other demographic groups, as a result of relatively more rapid growth in spending for nonacute services. Thus, spending growth for survivors continues to account for most of the growth in Medicare costs. Second, in recent years the growth in spending for nonacute services has accounted for half of overall spending growth. Thus, spending growth for decedents was not primarily the result of increasing heroic, intensive measures near the end of life. Third, although improvements in mortality have helped limit Medicare spending growth over time, this effect has been swamped by the much larger increases in expenditures given survival status for decedents and survivors alike. A commentary is also included at the end of the chapter.

Keywords: health care costs; mortality; Medicare costs; nonacute services; spending growth; survivors; decedents

Chapter.  5005 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economics

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