WSJ: The Crushing Cost of Senior Care

Each year, a small portion of Medicare beneficiaries—most of whom are seniors—consume a disproportionately large amount of federal resources for their inpatient and outpatient care, and those costs will only grow, reports the Wall Street Journal.

A primary goal of the 2010 health-care overhaul that the Supreme Court upheld last week is to slow the growth of costs. Even so, the law does little to address a simple fact: A sliver of the sickest patients account for the majority of U.S. health-care spending. In 2009, the top 10% of Medicare beneficiaries who received hospital care accounted for 64% of the program’s hospital spending, the Journal’s analysis found.

Younger patients… [represent] just 18.5% of the beneficiaries who received hospital care but 23.7% of the total cost. Seniors vastly outnumbered them, however, and consumed 76% of the total hospital costs.


As for Medicare’s long-term cost trajectory, it is relentlessly upward. The program’s net expenditures totaled $486 billion last year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, or 13.5% of all federal expenditures. In March, the CBO projected that Medicare expenditures would grow an average of 5.7% per year through 2022 and equal 16.2% of all federal outlays.

Medicare patients rack up disproportionate costs in the final year of life. In 2009, 6.6% of the people who received hospital care died. Those 1.6 million people accounted for 22.3% of total hospital expenditures, the Journal’s analysis shows.

Unfortunately, despite the Affordable Care Act’s intentions, the issue of end-of-life care and the costs associated with it looms large. One aspect of the healthcare reform regarding planning end-of-life care for Medicare beneficiaries has been labeled as essentially a death panel, and a deputy administrator and director for Medicare admits in the WSJ article that “we’re always going to have patients in the Medicare program that need a disproportionate number of resources.” 


Read the full piece at the Wall Street Journal

Written by Alyssa Gerace