Higher Life Expectancy, Health Care Costs Correlate
U.S. residents have benefited from increases in health care costs since 1960 through increased life expectancy, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine published on Thursday, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.
For the study, Harvard University health economist David Cutler and colleagues calculated average changes in health care costs and life expectancy for various age groups in each decade since 1960 (Donn, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/31). Researchers obtained the information on health care costs from federal surveys and the information on life expectancy from CDC.
The study finds that U.S. residents born in 1960 have an average life expectancy of 70 years, compared with 77 years for those born in 2000. The study attributes about 3.5 of the years of increased life expectancy to improvements in health care (Pagan Westphal, Wall Street Journal, 8/31).
Improved treatments for heart attack and other cardiovascular disease accounted for 70% of the increased life expectancy, and improved care for newborns accounted for 19%, the study finds (Bowman, Scripps Howard/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 8/31). According to the study, after adjustment for inflation, each year of increased life expectancy cost about $19,900. The cost of each year of increased life expectancy increased from $7,400 in the 1970s to $36,300 in the 1990s, the study finds (Pagan Westphal, Wall Street Journal, 8/31).
"The increased spending has, on average, been worth it," the study states.
The study finds that "people 65 and older have seen their longevity increase by just 3.5 years since 1960," and, "since 1980, costs have risen more rapidly than the value of added life expectancy for the elderly," Scripps Howard/Democrat-Gazette reports. Between 1960 and 2000, each year of increased life expectancy cost for seniors cost about $84,700, compared with $13,300 for newborns, $31,600 for 15-year-olds and $53,700 for 45-year-olds, the study finds.
According to the study, the cost of each year of increased life expectancy for seniors increased from about $121,000 between 1980 and 1990 to about $145,000 between 1990 and 2000 (Scripps Howard/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 8/31).
Cutler said, "The foremost cause of concern posed by rising medical costs is the tremendous strain coming from increased costs for the elderly," adding, "The cost per year of life for seniors is three times higher today than it was in the 1970s" (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/31).