Health Care Costs for Aging Baby Boomers Will Not Rise As Much As Anticipated, Study Says
Health care costs for aging baby boomers when they reach their 80s and 90s will not increase as much as is commonly expected, according to a new study in the Journal of Gerontology, Scripps Howard/Nando Times reports. According to Dr. Edward Norton, co-author of the study and associate professor of health policy and administration, while the odds of seniors needing long-term care are high -- a 40% or greater chance for anyone over age 65 -- seniors living into their 80s and 90s will not increase health care costs as much as previously thought because many will become ill at ages when expensive surgeries and other invasive treatments are not "reasonable possibilities." The study, conducted by the University of North Carolina and sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, analyzed the medical records of 25,954 seniors enrolled in Medicare between 1982 and 1998; information on seniors who died and those who survived illness was examined to "gauge cost trends over time." The researchers determined that health care costs rose for people in their 90s "largely due to nursing home care, but the cost run-up was not nearly as high as for medical treatment," Norton said. Researchers found that in the month before death, the cost for seniors ages 65 to 74 was approximately $7,580, while the cost for those 85 and older was $5,254. However, co-author Dr. Sally Stearns noted, "We need to be cautious about predicting the future of health care expenses, since technological changes will occur in drugs, surgery and high-tech equipment. While those advances are good, they are going to cost money that we can't estimate yet."
The study also found that the average monthly health care expenditure per Medicare beneficiary was $720 in 1998 dollars, of which Medicare paid $429. Among those who died, the cost was approximately $3,170 a month, while the cost for those who survived illness was approximately $590 a month (Bowman, Scripps Howard/Nando Times, 1/6).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.