Is $19,000 a year a good investment?

Recently, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that despite complaints of high healthcare costs, the price we pay to extend our lives is worth it. The study found that Americans have spent an average of $19,900 for each extra year of life gained in the last 40 years. But at HFMA Views, Scott MacStravic, Ph.D notes that this figure is somewhat misleading. For one thing, in the 1990s the cost of each extra year of life wasn't $19,900--it had risen to $36,300. And for seniors, that number rose to $145,000 due to the exorbitant price of end-of-life care. But more than that, MacStravic observes, the study is flawed because it doesn't say whether this money could have been better spent. "The real question should be: How does the return on investment that we have been getting with the current medical/hospital care system compare to what we might have gained had we invested in a more concerted and coordinated effort to reduce the need for medical care in the first place?" Spending $19,900 may seem reasonable for one more year of life, but what if we could achieve the same outcome for only $15,900--or even less?

For more on the study
- read this blog