The impact of aging on health care costs may be much less than we thought.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information recently issued a report on health care cost drivers, looking at a variety of issues.
Overall CIHI says that aging accounts for an 0.8 per cent annual increase to the cost of health care.
Add in another 1 per cent for population growth, and CIHI points out that demographic change has only a modest impact on the growth of health care costs.
In 1998 Canadians older than 65 accounted for 43.6 per cent of health care costs. In 2008 it was 43.8 per cent. This is hardly reason to panic.
CIHI further suggests it’s not so much how old you are, but when you die that matters.
“There is some evidence that proximity to death rather than aging is the key factor in terms of health expenditure,” the report states. The last few months of a person’s life tend to be the most expensive on the health system regardless of age.
The impact of aging is not evenly distributed either by province or in how health services are utilized.
The average impact on physician services is only 0.6 per cent, but 2.3 per cent on the cost of long term institutional care.
The impact of aging is also less in Ontario and the Western Provinces than it is in Quebec or the Atlantic provinces.
CIHI also notes that seniors are healthier than they have ever been before.
“Canada’s seniors are healthy well into their later years,” the report states, “and the health status of younger seniors appears to be similar to adults younger than 65.”
So much for the grey tsunami.