Dr Giorgi Kvizhinadze, Prof Tony Blakely, Prof Nick Wilson
This blog aims to discuss a study we recently published on NZ health system cost estimates by sex, age and proximity to death. Such work is only possible due to extraordinary richness of routine NZ data. We highlight four findings. First, costs – not surprisingly – vary markedly by age, and also are highly correlated with expected morbidity by age. Second, there is much less variability by age for costs in the last year of life – indeed, the ‘costs of dying’ peak at about 60 years of age, then fall dramatically. Put another way, we spend more on middle-age people in the last year of life – which seems appropriate. Third, there is concern about ballooning health system expenditure due to population aging – but one needs to factor in that the age at which people die will increase in the future. We probed Treasury estimates of future Vote:Health funding, and suggest their models slightly over-estimate future spending by up to 4% by not explicitly allowing for increasing average age of death.