While the United States' aging population is commonly cited as the main contributor to rising health care costs, a report from the Health Care Cost Institute suggests it is one of many factors accelerating cost growth. In fact, the report shows that the country's aging population has consistently contributed an average increase of less than one-half percent per year to cost growth for decades. Other contributors are: generational attitudes toward health, treatment pattern changes, evolving technology and the availability of new drugs.

Retiring before age 65 results in higher out-of-pocket spending for consumers, according to the report. The average 55-year-old retiree who lives until age 85 will spend $372,400 on health care while a 65-year-old retiree who lives until age 85 will spend about $146,400. When HCCI evaluated the impact of increasing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 70, it found that overall Medicare costs would decline by approximately 19 percent but increase per person by 12.5 percent for those older than 70.

Other findings include:

  • For people older than 30 with cancer, circulatory or musculoskeletal conditions, costs were two times higher than for those without disease. People younger than 30 with chronic disease have much higher average costs, particularly children with cancer, for whom spending is nearly eight times more than for the average child.
  • The spending increase associated with childbearing has shifted outward three years as women delay childbirth from their late 20s until after age 30. The report also finds that spending for women exceeds spending for men until age 60, when men's health care becomes more costly.
  • Health care costs have been rising faster for children ages 8 to 20. Costs are very high in the first year of life and drop significantly until age 8.

For more, go to www.healthcostinstitute.org.