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The Risk of Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenditure at End of Life

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  • Samuel Marshall
  • Kathleen M. McGarry
  • Jonathan S. Skinner

Abstract

There is conflicting evidence on the importance of out-of-pocket medical expenditures as a risk to financial security, particularly at older ages. We revisit this question, focusing on health care spending near the end of life using data from the Health and Retirement Study for the years 1998-2006. We address difficulties with missing values for various categories of expenditures, outliers, and variations across individuals in the length of the reporting period. Spending in the last year of life is estimated to be $11,618 on average, with the 90th percentile equal to $29,335, the 95th percentile $49,907, and the 99th equal to $94,310. These spending measures represent a substantial fraction of liquid wealth for decedents. Total out-of-pocket expenditures are strongly positively related to wealth and weakly related to income. We find evidence for a mechanism by which wealth could plausibly buy health: large expenditures on home modifications, helpers, home health care, and higher-quality nursing homes, which have been shown elsewhere to improve longevity.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Marshall & Kathleen M. McGarry & Jonathan S. Skinner, 2010. "The Risk of Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenditure at End of Life," NBER Working Papers 16170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16170
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. John Laitner & Dan Silverman & Dmitriy Stolyarov, 2018. "The Role of Annuitized Wealth in Post-retirement Behavior," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 71-117, July.
    2. Poterba, James M. & Venti, Steven F. & Wise, David A., 2017. "The asset cost of poor health," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 9(C), pages 172-184.
    3. James Poterba & Steven Venti & David Wise, 2011. "The Composition and Drawdown of Wealth in Retirement," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 95-118, Fall.
    4. Maria Prados, 2012. "A Life Cycle Approach to the Mechanism Connecting Health Inequality and Earnings Inequality," 2012 Meeting Papers 1145, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Wise, David Alsgaard & Poterba, James M. & Venti, Steven F., 2011. "The Drawdown of Personal Retirement Assets," Scholarly Articles 4677548, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    6. Silvia Helena Barcellos & Mireille Jacobson, 2015. "The Effects of Medicare on Medical Expenditure Risk and Financial Strain," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 41-70, November.
    7. Wankyo Chung, 2015. "Korea’s Basic Old-Age Pension and its poverty reduction effects," Chapters, in: John Karl Scholz & Hyungypo Moon & Sang-Hyup Lee (ed.), Social Policies in an Age of Austerity, chapter 10, pages 263-283, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Makoto Nakajima & Irina A. Telyukova, 2020. "Home Equity In Retirement," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 61(2), pages 573-616, May.
    9. Robert L. Clark & Robert G. Hammond & Melinda S. Morrill & Christelle Khalaf, 2019. "Informing Retirement Savings Decisions: A Field Experiment On Supplemental Plans," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 57(1), pages 188-205, January.
    10. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2015. "What Determines End-of-Life Assets? A Retrospective View," NBER Chapters, in: Insights in the Economics of Aging, pages 127-157, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I29 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Other
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General

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