Life expectancy in US hasn’t changed much. Where did all the health dollars go?

CDC has released the new US Life Expectancy data for the year 2014 this week. The overall life expectancy has not changed between 2013 and 2014 but in some demographics life expectancy at birth steadily receded to the level in 2009!

At the same time the healthcare expenditure, both at the consumer level and at the federal level, has increased quite substantially. So where did all the dollars go?

Here is my take on this – we are spending a lot more on our healthcare than what we used to, only to live up to the same age. By the way, US healthcare expenditure is the highest in the world but many Europeans live a lot longer than Americans. We are spending a lot of money only to find sooner that we are sick, but just because we know we are sick sooner, is not making us live any longer!

Here is an example, a patient in 2000 who was 65 years old is diagnosed with cancer with a life expectancy of five years from the date of diagnosis. The cost of that diagnosis was $1000. In the year 2016,  because there are more advanced diagnostic procedures available, another patient who is 64 years old is diagnosed with the same cancer and he has the life expectancy of 6 years from the date of diagnosis.  Since more expensive diagnostic procedures have been used on this patient he had to pay $10,000 for the diagnosis. But the interesting point to note here is that both patients died at the age of 70, but one spent $1000 and the other $10,000. It is saddeningly ironical.

All of us are running faster and faster on the treadmill only to stay in the same place.