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Just Relax-This Won’t Hurt a Bit September 19, 2009

Posted by Admin in Women.
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This summer I bagged three more departments at my local medical provider, dermatology, orthopedics and gastroenterology. Understand that this was not what I wanted to “do on my summer vacation”.  Plus they were not part of a medical treasure hunt-they were just things that it was time to have looked into (no pun intended). To date, the “life list” includes hematology/oncology, internal medicine, ob-gyn, urology, dermatology, physical therapy, radiology, the MRI department, gynecological oncology, and general surgery. Other trips in the last 6 months included an oral surgeon (also a first this year) and a repeat visit to the endodontist, in addition to the dentist (2 visits).

It’s hard to compare myself to others in my family, because I had cancer very early-so I’ve been a survivor for half my life. This means that I am accustomed to a high level of annual interaction with the health care delivery system. How does this compare with men in my family or younger people I wondered? I found a study called “The Lifetime Distribution of Health Care Costs”, which had two quick clues for me.

One, I am female and two, I am in middle age. (Now, If 60 is the new 30, then I am absolutely not middle aged, and I am younger than Rickey Henderson.)

But I digress. In this 2004 study, the authors found that the  “per capita lifetime expenditure is $316,600, a third higher for females ($361,200) than males ($268,700). Two-fifths of this difference owes to women’s longer life expectancy. Nearly one-third of lifetime expenditures is incurred during middle age, and nearly half during the senior years. For survivors to age 85, more than one-third of their lifetime expenditures will accrue in their remaining years.”  (The Lifetime Distribution…..Alemayehu and Warner, 2004)

So ironically, because cancer did not kill me the first or second time, I will live longer, spend 1/3 more on health care than a similarly aged male and in my middle age I will spend 1/3 of my lifetime health care cost. Plus, with women’s generally lower average lifetime earnings, the health care I pay for  will be a larger percentage of my overall budget.

I am not more relaxed, nor do I feel better, but I am more informed. That’s the current tradeoff.

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