Senior Care Costs Grew at Slowest Rate of All Age Groups: CMS

Health care spending for seniors grew at the slowest rate compared to other age groups between 2002 and 2010, according to a new actuarial report from the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services.

The average annual growth in per-person personal health care spending for seniors was 4.1% during that eight-year time frame—the lowest among any other age group studied, according to a report from the CMS Office of the Actuary released this week and published in the journal Health Affairs. Slower spending growth for skilled nursing facilities and continuing care retirement communities contributed to this trend.

“Personal health care costs” consist of all the medical goods and services used to treat or prevent certain diseases and conditions in a specific person. This includes health spending delivered through hospitals, physician and clinical services, retail prescription drugs, and the programs and payers for that care, such as private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. 


Spending growth among the age groups varied, especially during the Great Recession, according to the report’s authors. For example, the birth rate declined 3.7%, correlating to a slowed growth in spending for females aged 19-44 with fewer expenditures on maternity care.

For seniors, the recession’s impact wasn’t as clear, notes the report. Between 2008 and 2010, per capita spending growth for the elderly averaged 2.4% a year, lower than growth for the other age groups. 

“Slower Medicare spending and continued slow growth in spending for nursing care facilities and continuing care retirement communities contributed to the low rate of growth,” the report suggests. “Also, private health insurance spending per enrollee for those ages sixty-five and older grew slowly, at 3.0 percent annually over the period—the slowest growth rate of private health insurance among the major age groups. Out-of pocket spending per person for the elderly declined 0.4 percent annually over this period.”


Access the full report at Health Affairs.

Written by Alyssa Gerace