Care during last five years of life could cost $38-66k or more, study says

Even with Medicare coverage, many seniors still experience overwhelming out-of-pocket costs during the final five years of life, according to a report published in the September issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The retrospective analysis tracked more than 3,000 Medicare recipients between 2002 and 2008, using data from the national Health and Retirement Study.

On average, seniors with Medicare still spent more than $38,600 of their own money during the final five years of life, the report found. One-quarter of Medicare seniors spent everything they had, including their homes and other assets.

The overall averages can be misleading, the study points out, since out-of-pocket costs varied greatly depending on the diseases present in the last years. Those who developed gastrointestinal diseases averaged $31,000 in out-of-pocket costs, but those who developed Alzheimer’s averaged more than $66,000.

“Despite Medicare coverage, elderly households face considerable financial risk from out-of-pocket healthcare expenses at the end of life,” wrote lead author Amy Kelley, MD, in the report’s summary. “Disease-related differences in this risk complicate efforts to anticipate or plan for health-related expenditures in the last 5 years of life.”

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia , Clinical , Executive Leadership