Differences in medicare expenditures during the last 3 years of life

Lisa R. Shugarman, Diane E. Campbell, Chloe E. Bird, Jon Gabel, Thomas A. Louis, Joanne Lynn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To examine age, gender, race, and area income differences in Medicare expenditures in the 3 years before death. DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. PARTICIPANTS: A random sample of aged Medicare beneficiaries who died 1996 to 1999, N = 241,047. MEASURES: We estimate differences in mean Medicare expenditures by year before death and by age, gender, race, and area income, adjusting for comorbidities and Medicaid enrollment. RESULTS: Expenditures for blacks are lower in the second and third years before death and are not significantly different from whites in the last year of life (LYOL) (y3 = 70%, P < .0001; y2 = 82%, P < .0001; LYOL = 119%, P = .098). Differences in expenditures between decedents with area incomes over $35,000 compared to under $20,000 attenuate by the LYOL (y3 = 116%, P < .0001; y2 = 107%, P < .0001; LYOL = 96%, P < .0001). Expenditure patterns for women versus men vary by age. Among the younger cohorts (68 to 74 and 75 to 79), expenditures are higher for women in all 3 years before death. Tbis difference attenuates among older cohorts; in the oldest cohort (90+), expenditures for men exceed those for women by 11% in the LYOL (P < .0001). Older beneficiaries have higher expenditures in the second and third years before death but lower expenditures in the LYOL. On average, the youngest cohort expended $8,017 more in the LYOL relative to the oldest cohort, whereas in the third year before death, the oldest cohort's expenditures were $5,270 more than those for the youngest cohort (P < .0001). CONCLUSIONS: Age-associated differences in aggregate Medicare payments for end-of-life care are more substantial than other differences. The fact that other differences attenuate in the LYOL may reflect having overcome barriers to health care, or reflect an effective ceiling on the opportunities to provide services for persons with overwhelming illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-135
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • End of life
  • Gender
  • Medicare
  • Race
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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