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Medical bill for one year before death rises 3.4 times in 10 yearsSoaring hospital cost in final hours requires system change
  • By Yang Geum-deok
  • Approval 2017.05.18 18:31
  • comments 0

The medical cost for one year before death totaled nearly 16 million won ($14,200) on average as of 2015, increasing 3.4 times over the previous decade. Notably, the closer one moves to death, the larger his or her medical bill grows and the faster its increasing pace becomes.

According to a recent report by National Health Insurance Service국민건강보험공단 (NHIS), the medical expenditures before death for adults aged 40 or older have been growing every year.

The state agency based its study on the analysis of medical spending for people in different age groups, such as those at the age of 40, 65, and 75 or older and medical bills in various phases, ranging from one year to six months, three months and one month before death.

As a result, it found the patients pay larger medical bills as they moved nearer to death. In 2015, the total medical cost for adults aged 40 or more for one year before they were dead was 15.95 million won ($14,170), or a monthly average of 1.3 million won. In comparison, they paid 10 million won for six months before death, or a monthly average of 1.7 million, 6.6 million won for three months before death (2.2 million won a month), and 2.4 million won for a month before death, indicating hospital bills grow as they get nearer to their final moment.

The pre-death medical bills have continually increased since 2005. Given that patients paid 391,000 won on average a month during the one year before death in 2005, the monthly average medical spending showed the increase of 3.4 times in a decade. The monthly average hospital cost also jumped 3.3 times for six months before death, 3.2 times for three months before death, and 2.7 times for the final month before death.

Source: NHIS

In comparison, people aged 65 or more spent 15.58 million won, or a monthly average of 1.29 million won, in 2015 and paid 2.3million won for the final month before death. The medical spending for the elderly was less than that for those aged 40 or older, but the pattern of increasing medical costs when they were close to death was similar.

Also, the “older aged” of 75 or more paid 14 million won in total for one year, or a monthly average of 1.1 million won, and 2 million won in the final month before death, 1.8 times higher than 1.1 million won. Their spending has also increased since 2005. Researchers said the nation needs to take some measures to reduce the costs by, for instance, introducing hospice system, palliative care, and a scheme to move toward home care.

“Medical bills soar as people move closer to death in part because the number of medical services has increased thanks to the development of medical technology and because medical institutions continue to provide services for terminally-ill patients due to insufficient hospice and palliative care facilities,” they said. “The excessive spending right before death can generate side effects exerting an adverse influence on healthcare insurance.”

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