Medicare payments are higher for spouses of Alzheimer’s patients

The burden experienced by spouses of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) may have negative consequences for their physical health. We initially identified all beneficiaries in the 2001-2005 Medicare 5% sample who had multiple claims listing the ICD-9 diagnostic code for AD, 331.0. The 5% sample includes spouses who share a Medicare account with their marital partners because they lack a sufficient work history for full eligibility on their own. A matched cohort study assessed incremental health costs in the spouses of AD patients versus a control group of spouses of non-AD patients. Longitudinal and cross-sectional analyses tracked the impact of a patient's AD diagnosis on his or her spouse's healthcare costs. AD diagnosis in one member of a couple was associated with significantly higher monthly Medicare payments for the other member's healthcare. The spouses' elevated costs commenced 2 to 3 months before their partners' AD diagnosis and persisted over the follow-up period. After 31 months, the cumulative additional Medicare reimbursements totaled a mean $4,600 in the spouses of AD patients. This excess was significant even after accounting for differences in baseline health status between the cohorts. The observed correlations provide a coherent demonstration of the interdependence between AD patients' and spouses' health.

Using U.S. Medicare records to evaluate the indirect health effects on spouses: a case study in Alzheimer's disease patients. Gilden DM, Kubisiak JM, Kahle-Wrobleski K, Ball DE, Bowman L. BMC Health Serv Res. 2014 Jul 7;14:291.

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