US health care: Does more spending yield better health?

(Medical Xpress)—Health care spending is much higher for older Americans than for younger adults and children, on average, and analysts have said that increasing spending leads to longer life expectancy.

But new research from the University of Michigan indicates that aging populations could view things differently.

Conducted by Dr. Matthew Davis, associate professor at U-M's Ford School of Public Policy and , and Adam Swinburn, who earned his master's degree from the Ford School in 2011, the study is the first in the U.S. to estimate -adjusted life expectancy—that is, to measure the remaining years of life for different in terms of quality as well as quantity.

The researchers found that, overall, older Americans have markedly worse health compared with younger adults and children. Additional years of life for older people are perceived as less valuable by the individuals living them, compared to years of life experienced by younger people.

In contrast, they also found that as the population ages, the U.S. spends much more on health care but gets substantially less value for that spending—in terms of quality and quantity of life expectancy.

"Today in the United States, we are having essential conversations about the value of health care," Davis said. "As a doctor, I am concerned that older patients may not be getting much value from relatively expensive health care they are receiving, compared with benefits experienced by younger adults and children for lower amounts of ."

Davis and Swinburn found that to gain an additional year of health status-adjusted life expectancy "costs" about $24 in health care spending for infants and children up to 14 years old. By comparison, to gain the same year of health-adjusted life expectancy for a person 85 years old or older costs nearly $2,700.

"Many people would agree that decisions on health care spending should consider value for ," Swinburn said. "But currently, the value we get from spending on older age groups seems to be much less than the value we get for younger age groups. Future spending decisions can be informed by this disparity."

The researchers said that as Americans age, they are progressively less likely to rate their own health as excellent and more likely to rate it as only good, fair or poor. Overall, this means that with age, the perceived value of each year of remaining decreases.

To get more value from spending on health care, the researchers suggest that health and public health programs base more decisions on both cost and benefit.

"If we are guided by which treatments and prevention strategies offer the best value—defined as how much quality outcomes we get for how much we pay—as a country we may be able to spend the same or less on than we do now, but potentially have better health as a population," Davis said.

More information: Study in Michigan Journal of Public Affairs: www.mjpa.umich.edu/uploads/2013/davswin.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

Oct 24, 2014

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

Oct 24, 2014

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

Oct 24, 2014

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments