>Comparing this $19,900 against the value of a year of life as defined by insurance companies and medical decision-makers -- a figure that ranges from $50,000 to $200,000, according to different statistical estimates -- Cutler and colleagues judged the increase in medical costs to be a good value. The researchers write, "The increased spending has, on average, been worth it."
By contrast, persons age 65 and older have increased their longevity by just 3.5 years since 1960, with a cost of $84,700 for each year of added life.
"The foremost cause of concern posed by rising medical costs is the tremendous strain coming from increased costs for the elderly," Cutler says. "The cost per year of life for seniors is three times higher today than it was in the 1970s."
While Cutler, Rosen, and Vijan indicate that rising costs could lead to diminishing returns as life expectancy reaches a ceiling, the researchers say greatly increased quality of life for the elderly -- an important factor not considered in the current study -- mitigates in favor of current levels of healthcare spending among the elderly.
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Contact: Steve Bradt
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