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Health Aff (Millwood). 2003 Nov-Dec;22(6):27-39.

Does the aging of the population really drive the demand for health care?

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  • 1Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.


In the debate on health policy, it is widely believed that the aging of the U.S. population is a major driver of the annual growth in the demand for health care and in national health spending. This essay draws on the research literature and on data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys (MEPS) to debunk that myth. Although in any year per capita health spending for people age sixty-five or older tends to average three to five times that for younger Americans, the aging of the population is too gradual a process to rank as a major cost driver in health care.

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