Importance: In a period of dynamic change in health care technology, delivery, and behaviors, tracking trends in health and health care can provide a perspective on what is being achieved.
Objective: To comprehensively describe national trends in mortality, hospitalizations, and expenditures in the Medicare fee-for-service population between 1999 and 2013.
Design, setting, and participants: Serial cross-sectional analysis of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years or older between 1999 and 2013 using Medicare denominator and inpatient files.
Main outcomes and measures: For all Medicare beneficiaries, trends in all-cause mortality; for fee-for-service beneficiaries, trends in all-cause hospitalization and hospitalization-associated outcomes and expenditures. Geographic variation, stratified by key demographic groups, and changes in the intensity of care for fee-for-service beneficiaries in the last 1, 3, and 6 months of life were also assessed.
Results: The sample consisted of 68,374,904 unique Medicare beneficiaries (fee-for-service and Medicare Advantage). All-cause mortality for all Medicare beneficiaries declined from 5.30% in 1999 to 4.45% in 2013 (difference, 0.85 percentage points; 95% CI, 0.83-0.87). Among fee-for-service beneficiaries (n = 60,056,069), the total number of hospitalizations per 100,000 person-years decreased from 35,274 to 26,930 (difference, 8344; 95% CI, 8315-8374). Mean inflation-adjusted inpatient expenditures per Medicare fee-for-service beneficiary declined from $3290 to $2801 (difference, $489; 95% CI, $487-$490). Among fee-for-service beneficiaries in the last 6 months of life, the number of hospitalizations decreased from 131.1 to 102.9 per 100 deaths (difference, 28.2; 95% CI, 27.9-28.4). The percentage of beneficiaries with 1 or more hospitalizations decreased from 70.5 to 56.8 per 100 deaths (difference, 13.7; 95% CI, 13.5-13.8), while the inflation-adjusted inpatient expenditure per death increased from $15,312 in 1999 to $17,423 in 2009 and then decreased to $13,388 in 2013. Findings were consistent across geographic and demographic groups.
Conclusions and relevance: Among Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries aged 65 years or older, all-cause mortality rates, hospitalization rates, and expenditures per beneficiary decreased from 1999 to 2013. In the last 6 months of life, total hospitalizations and inpatient expenditures decreased in recent years.