The Economics of Disability

Sarcopenia and functional decline is a leading cause of disability onset and loss of independence in older patients. In addition to the reduced quality of life that disability imposes on older patients, the loss of independence represents a significant increase in medical expenses to taxpayers, families and caregivers. A 2002 study (Guralnik) reviewed Medicare data from 1995 of 28.2 million patients who began the year with no reported disability and tracked the increase of their medical costs as they transitioned to dependency, either in their home or at a nursing home.

Of the 28.2 million people tracked in the study, almost 1.5 million patients made some transition of dependency throughout the course of the year, at a cost of $26.1 billion. The average medical costs for a patient age 55 and older with no disability was $4771, but increased to a staggering $18,025 after the development of difficulty with at least one activity of daily living (ADL). The increases in medical costs were even more significant if the patient required care in a nursing home, to $36,596.

The study reported only increases in health care costs per patient but did not factor in other costs, such as basic medical and formal long-term care costs, informal care costs, or other expenses associated with caring for an elderly person, such as lost wages of a family member, etc., which would drive the numbers up even more significantly.

Though a similar study has yet to be conducted 10 years later, these numbers have certainly continued to rise with Baby Boomers now reaching advanced ages of 65 and older in greater numbers. Now is the time to advance research and innovation in the areas of sarcopenia, age-related muscle loss and functional decline. AIM is seeking to pave the way for cutting-edge research and innovation via regulatory channels through agencies like the FDA and CMS to take advantage of treatment possibilities that already exist. Join us as a coalition member or as a sponsor of our agenda.

Guralnik, J, et al. Medical and Long-Term Care Costs When Older Persons Become More Dependent. American Journal of Public Health | August 2002. Vol 92. No, 8, pp. 1244-1245.