Intensive Medical Care and Cardiovascular Disease Disability Reductions
There is little empirical evidence to explain why disability declined among the elderly over the past 20 years. In this paper, we explore the role of improved medical care for cardiovascular disease on health status improvements over time. We show that the incidence of cardiovascular disease hospitalizations remained relatively constant between 1984 and 1999 at the same time that post-event survival improved and disability declined. We find that use of appropriate therapies, including pharmaceuticals such as beta-blockers, aspirin, and ace-inhibitors, and invasive procedures, explains up to 50% and 70% of the reductions in disability and death over time, respectively. Elderly patients living in regions with high use of appropriate medical therapies had better health outcomes than patients living in low-use areas. Finally, we estimate that preventing disability after an acute event can add as much as 3.7 years of quality-adjusted life expectancy, or $316,000 of value.