Evidence for Significant Compression of Morbidity in the Elderly U.S. Population

51 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2013

See all articles by David M. Cutler

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Mary Beth Landrum

Harvard Medical School

Kaushik Ghosh

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: August 2013

Abstract

The question of whether morbidity is being compressed into the period just before death has been at the center of health debates in the United States for some time. Compression of morbidity would lead to longer life but less rapid medical spending increases than if life extension were accompanied by expanding morbidity. Using nearly 20 years of data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, we examine how health is changing by time period until death. We show that functional measures of health are improving, and more so the farther away from death the person is surveyed. Disease rates are relatively constant at all times until death. On net, there is strong evidence for compression of morbidity based on measured disability, but less clear evidence based on disease-free survival.

Suggested Citation

Cutler, David M. and Landrum, Mary Beth and Ghosh, Kaushik, Evidence for Significant Compression of Morbidity in the Elderly U.S. Population (August 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19268. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2303226

David M. Cutler (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center, Room 315A
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Mary Beth Landrum

Harvard Medical School ( email )

Department of Health Care Policy
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Kaushik Ghosh

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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