Health Costs-And Longevity

Aging Today, September/October 2006 | Go to article overview

Health Costs-And Longevity


The rising cost of medical care in the United States has been "worth it" on average, when compared with gains in life expectancy, but escalating spending to treat older Americans is "a cause for concern," according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine (Aug. 31, 2006) titled "The Value of Medical Spending in the United States, 1960-2000" by influential Harvard University health economist David M. Cutler and colleagues at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Noting that "the value of a year of life as used in medical decisionmaking ... is the subject of some debate," the authors compared trends in spending-growing at more than 10% per year for most of the last four decades-with trends in life expectancy. They calculated how much medical spending has increased for Americans across the lifespan since 1960, and found that medical spending for each added year of life comes to $19,900. The researchers cited the estimated value of "a statistical life for people of working age at approximately $7 million" and judged the added healthcare expense a "reasonable value."

VALUE DECREASING

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, also found that the cost of each added year for people age 65 or older climbed to $145,000 in the 19905.

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