New analysis of Medicare spending from 2000-11 found that in 2011 per capita spending increased with age, from $7,566 for beneficiaries age seventy to $16,145 at age ninety-six, and then declined for even older beneficiaries. The authors also found that since 2000, the age that Medicare per capita spending peaks has increased each year: In 2000, the highest spending was found to be among those age ninety-two. They also found that Medicare beneficiaries ages eighty and older, who comprised 24 percent of the beneficiaries, accounted for a disproportionate share (33 percent) of traditional Medicare spending in 2011. This study, being released by Health Affairs as a Web First, is part of the journal's re-established DataWatch series, which features timely health-related data and surveys.

The authors analyzed data from 2000-11 from a 5 percent sample of claims for Medicare-covered services under Parts A, B, and D from the Chronic Conditions Data Warehouse of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They found that the relatively high per capita spending of beneficiaries in their nineties was largely the result of higher spending on skilled nursing facilities, hospice, and to a lesser extent, home health services. When these services were excluded, the authors found that per capita spending peaked at age eighty-nine, not ninety-six, in 2011. "This article provides new data that could help improve care management for Medicare's oldest beneficiaries," concluded the authors. "As adults live into their 80s and beyond, they are more likely to live with multiple chronic conditions and functional limitations. The Affordable Care Act launched several reforms that could alter patterns of care and spending for older patients. These efforts, if successful, could lower costs and improve care for Medicare's octogenarians, nonagenarians, and centenarians."

Article: Medicare Per Capita Spending By Age And Service: New Data Highlights Oldest Beneficiaries, Patricia Neuman, Juliette Cubanski and Anthony Damico, Health Affairs, doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2014.1371, published January 2015.