Life expectancy increased by seven years between 1960 and 2000, but in the past 20 years the medical costs for each year of life gain increased markedly, especially in older age groups, according to a federally funded study examining the value of medical spending in the U.S. At 65 years of age, the cost per year of life gained was $121,000 between 1980 and 1990 and $145,000 between 1990 and 2000. On average the increases in medical spending since 1960 have provided "reasonable value," the authors said, but spending increases in medical care since 1980 are a cause for concern. The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging and the Lasker Foundation, was published in today's New England Journal of Medicine. If the study had been able to factor in the improved quality of life of older people, the value of medical spending would have looked even better, but the research also suggests "that we must redouble our efforts to use healthcare dollars more efficiently," said Richard Suzman, director of the Behavioral and Social Research Program at the National Institute on Aging, in a news release.
Life grows longer, but at increasing cost
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