Monday, January 25, 2016

Older Singles Spend More on Health Care

For Americans aged 65 or older, out-of-pocket per person health care expenses are greater for singles than for couples, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. EBRI analyzed two types of out-of-pocket expenses: recurring (dental visits, doctor visits, and prescription drugs), and nonrecurring (outpatient surgery, hospital stays, in-home care, and nursing home care). During a two-year period, recurring expenses average $2,500 per person regardless of age or whether the elderly person lives alone or with a spouse. "It was clear that the recurring health care expenses were very predictable," notes EBRI.

Nonrecurring out-of-pocket expenses are another story. Not only are per person expenses higher for singles than for couples, but the difference increases with age. For singles aged 65 to 74, average nonrecurring expenses were $766 more for singles than for couples ($2,790 versus $2,024 over two years). By age 85-plus, singles spent an average of $4,825 more than couples on a per person basis ($13,355 versus $8,530).

What makes nonrecurring out-of-pocket expenses so much more costly for singles than for couples? Singles do not have the advantage of a live-in caregiver, suggests EBRI. The biggest differences in out-of-pocket nonrecurring costs were for nursing homes and home health care. "As health breaks down with age," EBRI concludes, "the advantage of having a spouse or partner to act as caregiver results in lower spending."

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Differences in Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenses of Older Single and Couple Households

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