The elderly are the most costly healthcare consumers, but their spending grew at the slowest rate between 2002 and 2010, according to CMS actuaries.
The average spending, per person, for those 65 and older increased 4.1% a year during that period, according to a look at health spending by age by the CMS Office of the Actuary and published in the journal Health Affairs
. The analysis shows health spending for working-age adults and children grew 5.2% and 5.5%, respectively.
Per-person spending among the elderly reached $18,424 in 2010. The figure was $6,125 for working-age adults and $3,628 for children.
Spending on nursing homes and continuing care for the elderly was weak, and Medicare managed-care
payments decelerated during the period, which contributed to the lower growth in spending among the elderly, the authors said. Figures point to a shift in spending away from institutional care. Nursing home and continuing-care spending increased 3.3% a year on average, while home healthcare grew an average of 7.6%.
Data also suggest men may be filling more prescriptions. The gap in prescription spending between women and men narrowed to 25% from 38%. Medicare's
increased coverage of prescription drug in 2006 is captured in the data as spending skyrocketed to $39.6 billion that year from $3.4 billion in 2004. By 2010, Medicare accounted for 54% of spending on drugs by those older than 64 compared with 5% in 2004.
Regardless of age or gender, spending slowed as a result of the Great Recession. Between 2008 and 2010, health spending by the average person increased 3.4% compared with 5.7% prior to that. Spending slowed for men and women, but slowed more for women, in part perhaps because of lower birth rates, according to the study. “Fertility rates tend to fall when overall economic conditions deteriorate, as they did during the Great Depression and the recent recession,” the authors wrote. The recession decreased the number of privately insured by 11 million and increased Medicaid spending as Medicaid enrollment swelled by 7.5 million. Follow Melanie Evans on Twitter: @MHmevans