Stop Blaming Elderly and Terminally Ill for Our Health-Care Spending Problems

Elderly Patient1

(Evolution News) – There is a widely believed myth that the elderly and dying take up a huge amount of the overall health-care budget.

According to this belief, by empowering “death panels” and legalizing assisted suicide, imposing rationing or forced withdrawal of treatment based on “futile care,” we could go far in reducing health-care expenditures, which take up 17.9 percent of the total U.S. GDP.

This myth is driven by story after story and column after column urgently warning that the spending on patients in the last year of life is busting the health-care bank. Here’s a typical example from a Michael Bell column in Forbes five years ago:

According to one study (Banarto, McClellan, Kagy and Garber, 2004), 30% of all Medicare expenditures are attributed to the 5% of beneficiaries that die each year, with 1/3 of that cost occurring in the last month of life. I know there are other studies out there that say slightly different things, but the reality is simple: we spend an incredible amount of money on that last year and month.

Is it worth it? The answer seems to be no.

In actuality, total spending on end-of-life care is only 9 percent of the total cost of health care. CONTINUE