Medical science sure to help us live longer

October 1, 2006

Would you pay $19,900 to add another year to your life? If only it were that simple. The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) recently published a study that concluded between 1960 and 2000, we paid an average of $19,900 in medical costs per year of life gained during that time. In 1960, a newborn's life expectancy was 69.9 years, and in 2000, it was 76.87 years, according to the study.

Would you pay $19,900 to add another year to your life? If only it were that simple. The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) recently published a study that concluded between 1960 and 2000, we paid an average of $19,900 in medical costs per year of life gained during that time. In 1960, a newborn's life expectancy was 69.9 years, and in 2000, it was 76.87 years, according to the study.

Since there are other factors related to increased life expectancy, such as safer automobiles, authors assumed only 50% of the gains came from medical care. Considering the advances I can think of just off the top of my head, I'm surprised the percentage attributed to medical care wasn't higher.

MEDICAL ADVANCES

ANOTHER FORTY YEARS

Between 1960 and 2000, we spent a lot more per person on medical care and gained 6.97 years of life expectancy, according to the NEJM. More and more people are living to see their 100th birthdays, and I wouldn't be surprised if researchers soon begin forecasting life expectancies closer to 90 years.

Truth is, we'll spend more on healthcare in the next few decades through increased utilization alone. Healthcare strategists are counting on it. As we struggle to create a healthcare model that adequately finances our needs for the foreseeable future, I hope we don't underestimate the exciting-and unforeseeable-possibilities of medical discovery.

Julie Miller is editor-in-chief of MANAGED HEALTHCARE EXECUTIVE. She can be reached at julie.miller@advanstar.com