STAT: MIT study says maybe we don’t spend so much on dying patients

Another piece of conventional wisdom challenged. From STAT.

MIT Dome

Maybe you have heard the refrain before: The U.S. spends too much money on the dying. Every year, 5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries die, but one-quarter of spending occurs in the last year of life. Side by side, these stats have fed a widely held belief that, in an exorbitantly expensive health care system, much of end-of-life care goes to waste.

new study, published in the journal Science, pushes back on this notion. The researchers, a team of three economists and one physician, used machine learning to predict mortality and re-examine spending. In their new estimate, patients with the highest one-year mortality risk account for less than 5 percent of spending, much less than the original one-quarter claim.

But the conclusion that most surprised author and Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Amy Finkelstein: Death is highly unpredictable.


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