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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