Kenneth Thorpe and David Howard provide an important snapshot of the long-term trends in Medicare beneficiaries' health care spending. They use clever methods to shed new light on increases in per capita spending, convincingly demonstrating that treatment patterns are a major factor. But several puzzles remain. Trends in per capita spending differ from other findings in that Thorpe and Howard find costs rising fastest for those with multiple conditions, and it is unclear what would happen if one took lifetime spending into account. Reliable predictions about long-term trends will require information on any health benefits associated with increases in diagnosis and treatment.
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