KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Study Examines Medicare Out-Of-Pocket Expenses In The Last 5 Years Of Life

CNN Money: Cutting The High Cost Of End-Of-Life Care
Should your 82-year-old dad, who has been declining after a stroke, get hip surgery after a fall? Would your 43-year-old sister, fighting late-stage cancer, benefit from an experimental drug that could have serious side effects? These are wrenching decisions. And while no one wants to think about money at such times, they are also expensive ones -- for families and for the country. One out of every four Medicare dollars, more than $125 billion, is spent on services for the 5% of beneficiaries in their last year of life. Yet even with Medicare or private insurance, you're likely to face a big bill: A recent Mount Sinai School of Medicine study found that out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare recipients during the five years before their death averaged about $39,000 for individuals, $51,000 for couples, and up to $66,000 for people with long-term illnesses like Alzheimer's (Wang, 12/12).

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