Medicare Beneficiaries' Costs of Care in the Last Year of Life

End-of-Life Costs Are Only Slightly Higher for Persons Who Died Than for Survivors with Similar Characteristics

Published in: Health Affairs, v. 20, no. 4, July/Aug. 2001, p. 188-195

by Christopher Hogan, June R. Lunney, Jon Gabel, Joanne Lynn

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This paper profiles Medicare beneficiaries' costs for care in the last year of life. About one-quarter of Medicare outlays are for the last year of life, unchanged from twenty years ago. Costs reflect care for multiple severe illnesses typically present near death. Thirty-eight percent of beneficiaries have some nursing home stay in the year of their death; hospice is now used by half of Medicare cancer decedents and 19 percent of Medicare decedents overall. African Americans have much higher end-of-life costs than others have, an unexpected finding in light of their generally lower health care spending.

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