Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 127–135

Differences in medicare expenditures during the last 3 years of life

  • Lisa R. Shugarman
  • Diane E. Campbell
  • Chloe E. Bird
  • Jon Gabel
  • Thomas A. Louis
  • Joanne Lynn
Original Articles

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To examine age, gender, race, and area income differences in Medicare expenditures in the 3 years before death.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

PARTICIPANTS: A random sample of aged Medicare beneficiaries who died 1996 to 1999, N=241,047.

MEASURES: We estimate differences in mean Medicare expenditures by year before death and by age, gender, race, and area income, adjusting for comorbidities and Medicaid enrollment.

RESULTS: Expenditures for blacks are lower in the second and third years before death and are not significantly different from whites in the last year of life (LYOL) (y3=70%, P<.0001; y2=82%, P<.0001; LYOL=119%, P=.098). Differences in expenditures between decedents with area incomes over $35,000 compared to under $20,000 attenuate by the LYOL (y3=116%, P<.0001; y2=107%, P<.0001; LYOL=96%, P<.0001). Expenditure patterns for women versus men vary by age. Among the younger cohorts (68 to 74 and 75 to 79), expenditures are higher for women in all 3 years before death. This difference attenuates among older cohorts; in the oldest cohort (90+), expenditures for men exceed those for women by 11% in the LYOL (P<.0001). Older beneficiaries have higher expenditures in the second and third years before death but lower expenditures in the LYOL. On average, the youngest cohort expended $8,017 more in the LYOL relative to the oldest cohort, whereas in the third years before death, the oldest cohort’s expenditures were $5,270 more than those for the youngest cohort (P<.0001).

CONCLUSIONS: Age-associated differences in aggregate Medicare payments for end-of-life care are more substantial than other differences. The fact that other differences attenuate in the LYOL may reflect having overcome barriers to health care, or reflect an effective ceiling on the opportunities to provide services for persons with overwhelming illness.

Key words

end of life gender Medicare race socioeconomic status 

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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa R. Shugarman
    • 6
  • Diane E. Campbell
    • 1
  • Chloe E. Bird
    • 6
  • Jon Gabel
    • 2
  • Thomas A. Louis
    • 3
  • Joanne Lynn
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Medical Outcomes Research and Evaluation ServicesThetford
  2. 2.Health Research and Education TrustWashington, DC
  3. 3.Department of BiostatisticsJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimore
  4. 4.RAND HealthArlington
  5. 5.Washington Home Center for Palliative Care StudiesWashington, DC
  6. 6.Associate Health Policy Researcher, RANDSanta Monica

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