• Psst, wanna buy a disability-free year of life?

    Health is priceless, but that doesn’t stop economists from pricing it. Cutler, Rosen, and Vijan tell us that, on average, an additional year of life for a 65 year old in the US costs $145,000 in medical care. And that’s for the 1990-2000 decade, so it’s probably higher today.

    But health spending produces more than life extension, it also increases the quality of life. In other words, a lot of those $145,000 dollars that Cutler and colleagues said were expended per additional life-year didn’t actually increase longevity. But they may have increased health. Liming Cai estimates that for Medicare beneficiaries 65 years old or older, an additional disability-free life-year costs just $75,000 in health care, or almost half that for an additional life-year.  (His estimate is for the 1992-2005 period.)

    Of course citizens of other countries get their disability-free life-years cheaper. Still, the US price may be worth it, considering the benefits. Is it? Factor in that, here in the US, you also get access to this.

    @afrakt

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    • You chose two papers–one citing cost per additional life year and the other cost per DFLY.

      Different methods, etc., and yeah, we eat deep fried oreos, but you did not tie the two together.

      Are you saying we pay a lot more to live longer, but the cost has some return because we are living better–more so than elsewhere?

      Brad

    • Of note. Out today:

      “Health rankings: USA is living longer, but sicker”

      http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/12/10/health-rankings-states/1759299/

      • Some of that is due to the growth in the Hispanic population. Hispanics are more likely to be obese, to have diabetes and to live longer than non-Hispanic Americans.

    • I have a suspicion that those costs are skewed by people who put off expensive procedures — like knee or hip replacements — until they are covered by Medicare. While I only know of 2 specific cases where this happened, in both cases (one in Harrisburg, PA the other in Naples, FL) it was the surgical group’s admin-types who made the suggestion to the 64-year old patients.

    • I work in health care policy, but it’s worth remembering that that $145,000 per senior might be better spent on something completely: lead abatement, early childhood education, higher education subsidies, mass transit, medical research and development, energy research and development, income supports for low-income people, space exploration and research, etc.

      I’m all for a strong Medicare program. But the United States has systematically underinvested in the needs of people my age. The food fights over taxes and health care have distracted from this. We give most of the goodies to seniors. It so happens that they vote at much higher rates than everyone else. It also happens that they’re disproportionately White and they’re increasingly wary of a more racially diverse population of younger Americans, plus they have different political views.

    • Of course citizens of other countries get their disability-free life-years cheaper. Still, the US price may be worth it, considering the benefits. Is it? Factor in that, here in the US, you also get access to this.

      I think that a more helpful way to look at it is to compare healthcare spending to spending on other health increasing projects. For example safer roads, replacing older cars with newer safer less polluting cars. Or more and better policing. Or even within the Government healthcare category shifting money from medicare to prenatal care , care for preemies or medicare.