The cost of end-of-life care for Americans on traditional Medicare is higher for those in their early 70s than for beneficiaries in their 80s or 90s, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In 2014, the per-capita cost of care peaked at $43,353 for those who died at age 73, compared with $36,841 who died at age 80 and $27,779 for 90-year-old decedents, Kaiser found in its analysis of claims data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Chronic Conditions Data Warehouse.
“This is a pattern we weren’t really expecting to see,” Juliette Cubanski, associate director of the program on Medicare policy for Kaiser, said in an article on the findings distributed by Kaiser Health News. “It kind of goes against the notion that doctors are throwing everything including the kitchen sink at people at the end of life regardless of how old they are,” she added.
The trend was quite different, and much less costly, for those who lived through the entire year. Their per-capita cost of care started at $5,271 for 66-year-olds and peaked at $14,620 for those aged 97. Medicare per capita spending for all decedents was nearly four times higher, at $34,529, than the $9,121 spent for each beneficiary who survived the year, the Kaiser report showed.
The largest share of that difference came from inpatient hospital care, which was 51% of decedents’ per-capita cost but only 27% for survivors. The cost for each group: $17,574 for decedents and $2,497 for survivors, according to Kaiser, which pointed out that its analysis covered only traditional Medicare beneficiaries during the calendar year in which they died and did not include spending in the full 12 months before their deaths.
The gap between decedents and survivors has narrowed in recent years. The growth rate from 2000 – when spending was $19,130 – to 2014 was 4.3% a year for decedents, while spending for survivors rose 5.5% annually from its $4,322 starting level at the turn of the century, the report noted.