Analysis: 4M Medicare Beneficiaries Account for 41% of Spending
About 66% of people ages 65 and older in the traditional Medicare program have multiple chronic conditions, according to a USA Today analysis.
The analysis of county-level Medicare data from 2012 found that roughly 15% of beneficiaries, or about four million people, have a minimum of six chronic conditions. Such individuals accounted for more than 41% of Medicare's $324 billion in spending. In comparison, 10,000 seniors accounted for $1 billion in medical Medicare spending in 2010, with 9,500 of such individuals having six or more chronic conditions.
According to researchers, baby boomers becoming eligible for Medicare in recent years have more health conditions than the previous generation of beneficiaries. The analysis found that the number of counties in which 75% of Medicare beneficiaries have multiple chronic conditions has increased by 20% since 2008.
Further, since 2008, diagnoses of depression, high cholesterol and kidney disease have increased by at least 10%. According to the analysis:
- More than 50% of all Medicare beneficiaries have been diagnosed with high blood pressure; and
- 27% have been diagnosed with diabetes.
Meanwhile, such individuals also are living longer, meaning they must deal with their conditions for extended periods of time. As result, some patients and the health care system are struggling to manage the conditions financially, according to USA Today.
The issue highlights the need for changes in the health care system to focus more on treating patients' various conditions instead of treating one ailment at a time. Experts say specialists increasingly must communicate to coordinate:
- Treatment plans; and
- Quality-of-life goals for their patients.
For example, Gerard Anderson, professor at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, said elderly individuals living with at least five chronic conditions typically see 13 different physicians and fill 50 prescriptions annually (Hoyer, USA Today, 6/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.