Why is less money spent on health care for the elderly than for the rest of the population? Health care rationing in German hospitals
Social Science and Medicine, 55:4, 593–608 (2002)
The consequences of population ageing for the public health care system and health care costs may be less severe than is commonly assumed. Hospital discharge data from Germany´s largest health insurer (AOK) show that the cost of caring for patients during their last year of life makes up a large part of total health expenditures. And this last year of life is less costly if patients die at an advanced age. As a multivariate analysis reveals, oldest old patients as a rule receive less costly treatment than younger patients for the same illness. Moreover, this pattern is more pronounced for elderly women than for elderly men. These findings suggest that health care is informally rationed according to the age and sex of the patient. The data also indicate that there may be more age-related rationing going on in Germany than in the United States. Future research should investigate the national, institutional, and individual factors behind health care rationing. In this paper, I discuss the physician´s professional decision as one plausible determinant.