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Age‐specific increases in health care costs

Johan J. Polder, Luc Bonneux, Willem Jan Meerding, Paul J. Van Der Maas
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/12.1.57 57-62 First published online: 1 March 2002


Background: The escalating costs of health care raise questions about demographic, epidemiological and technological determinants and future projections. The objectives of this work are to describe the age pattern of health care costs, to analyse the age‐specific cost changes and to project future health care costs in an ageing population. Methods: Comprehensive cost‐of‐illness data for the whole Dutch population in 1988 and 1994 are compared by age and type of care. National data on all hospital admissions, nursing days and clinical interventions for the period 1988–1994 is used to describe trends in hospital care. Population forecasts are used to project the age distribution of future health care costs. Results: The distribution of health care costs per capita depends strongly on age. The growth rate of per capita costs increases by age for acute care but decreases by age for long‐term care. Both combined cause an average annual growth rate of 4.6%, nearly constant with age. Conclusions: Ageing will result in increasing health care demands and costs. Secular trends in acute and long‐term care indicate major shifts in costs from younger to older people and from long‐term to acute care.

  • acute and long‐term care; cost of illness; cost projection; day‐care; health expenditure

Received 9 June 2000. Accepted 16 February 2001.