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The Connection Between Advanced Directives and Health Care Costs

Health care costs keep rising everywhere in the country, except one place, LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Could it be that the good residents of LaCrosse, Wisconsin are healthier than the country as a whole? Possibly. Is it having the Old Style brewery in town that keeps them from using health care services? I’d like to think so. The answer though may be found in something much more mundane. Almost everyone in LaCrosse has advanced directives. Over 90% of the people who die in LaCrosse have written out their wishes for end of life care, this compared with roughly 30% of Americans as a whole. What do advanced directives have to do with health care costs? A lot. Over a quarter of all health care costs in this country are spent on people in the last 1 year of their life.

The radio program “Planet Money” just did a quick segment on LaCrosse and the connection between the widespread use of advanced directives and the lowering of health care spending in that town. An interesting listen for sure. It also can be a starting point to having an uncomfortable talk with our loved ones.

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