Medicare expenditures attributable to dementia

An estimated four to five million older adults in the United States are living with dementia, a chronic, progressive condition characterized by cognitive decline of sufficient severity to interfere with a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. Despite recent evidence that prevalence rates of dementia may be declining in high‐income countries, population forecasts indicate significant growth in the absolute number of adults in the United States living with dementia as the population ages and mortality from other diseases declines.

Understanding the magnitude of the direct medical care costs attributable to dementia is important for public and private decision makers, but estimating these costs has been difficult. Even when focused on the direct costs to the traditional Medicare program, estimates have ranged widely, with differences driven by the time period and population studied, the definition used to identify dementia, and the study design and analytic techniques employed. For example, the handful of studies employing a cross‐sectional design, comparing Medicare expenditures over one year for people with a dementia diagnosis and people without, reported annual incremental costs ranging from $3019 to $10 598 per person, in 2017 dollars.

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