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April 8, 1996

Acute Care Costs of the Oldest Old: They Cost Less, Their Care Intensity Is Less, and They Go to Nonteaching Hospitals

Author Affiliations

From the Division on Aging, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass (Dr Perls); and Section of Geriatric Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine (Dr Perls) and Health Services Research and Statistics (Ms Wood), Deaconess Hospital, Boston.

Arch Intern Med. 1996;156(7):754-760. doi:10.1001/archinte.1996.00440070078009

Background:  The cost of acute hospital care is often believed to increase with age among older persons. Our clinical experience in the acute hospital setting suggested that people aged 90 years and older may be a distinct cohort who have different health care needs and who use health resources differently from younger aged groups.

Methods:  To determine the cost of care for the oldest old and younger old patients in Massachusetts acute care hospitals, 1992 and 1993 discharge data from all nonfederal Massachusetts hospitals were examined (678 954 discharges) according to five age groups: 60 to 69 years (n=210 270), 70 to 79 years (n=256 781), 80 to 89 years (n=171 725), 90 to 99 years (n=39 170), and 100 or more years (n=1008). Average estimated total and ancillary costs per discharge and per diagnosis related group were calculated. Differences by gender and survivorship were also examined.

Results:  Hospitalization costs peaked in the 70- to 79-year age group and declined with age thereafter. Case mix was an important determinant of this trend. Despite lower cost per stay, average length of stay was longer for the oldest age groups. Ancillary costs accounted for 53% of the total costs per stay among the 60- to 69-year-olds and only 32% among the 100 or more—year-olds. For hospitalizations during which the patient died, the average cost per discharge decreased 61%, from $16 886 for 60- to 69-year-olds to $6523 for centenarians. Costs were greater for decedents than for survivors, although these differences decreased dramatically with increasing age. Those aged 80 years and older tended to be hospitalized in nonteaching hospitals.

Conclusions:  In the acute hospital setting, the oldest old cost less per admission than younger elderly patients. This finding must be considered when future health care costs are predicted for this fastest growing segment of our population.(Arch Intern Med. 1996;156:754-760)

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