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MIT Technology Review

Health-care costs are soaring, but don’t blame old people

The per-person allocation for those over 65 is actually shrinking

healthcare workers in operating roomhealthcare workers in operating room
healthcare workers in operating room
Vidal Balielo Jr. | Unsplash

Health-care expenditures have doubled since 2002, but most of that change can be attributed to the 91% increase in costs for those aged 18 to 64. In the last 10 years, the percentage of the US population over 65 has grown from 12% to 16%, but its share of total health-care spending has remained flat, meaning the per-person allocation for those over 65 is actually shrinking.

Share of costs per person for those 65 and over is actually decreasing


First off, they’re healthier than ever.


And older people take better care of themselves than middle-aged adults.

Meanwhile, share of costs per person for those under 65 is increasing


Adults are increasingly dying “deaths of despair,” which the CDC defines as those from drugs, alcohol, or suicide. 

147,095 people
died “by despair” in 2016.

That's almost 2.5x the number in 2000.


Adult mortality rates are rising as a result, contributing to lower life expectancy (US, ages 15-60).


And the “cost of dying” under 65 is

24.6%
higher than end-of-life costs for those over 65.