Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses Loom Large Despite Medicare

Adult children who help aging parents should check out the Washington Post article At End of Life, Medicare Beneficiaries Spend Thousands Out-of-Pocket. Reporter Sarah Kliff explains that a recent study, Out of Pocket Spending in the Last Five Years of Life (abstract), published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, examined the amount of money that aging Medicare recipients spend on health care during the last five years of life. The abstract leads to the first two pages of the study, freely available.

According to the Post article, “The average Medicare beneficiary spent $38,688 out-of-pocket during the last five years of life.” This is in addition to the portion that Medicare covers. The Post article also features two excellent charts.

Click here to learn more about the study.

Researchers studied people who died between 2002 and 2008 using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), based at the University of Michigan. HRS is a large nationally representative study funded launched in 1992 and funded by the National Institute on Aging.

While Medicare is considered to provide universal health care, it “does not cover a variety of services particularly valuable for those with chronic diseases or a life-limiting illness, including most eye glasses, hearing aids, home care services, and equipment and non-rehabilitative nursing home care.” The study also points out that out-of-pocket cost for dementia over the last five years is more than twice the spending of dying from many other medical conditions.

A Health Day article about the study quotes Olivia Mitchell, a professor of at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, who comments,”The sad news is that it’s going to be much more expensive to grow old.”

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