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OBJECTIVES: To learn whether managed care patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) are more or less costly to care for than patients with other forms of dementia or patients without dementia during the last few years of life.

DESIGN: Case control study.

SETTING: A health maintenance organization base population.

PARTICIPANTS: Three groups of subjects (mean age 85) who were deceased members of a dementia registry obtained from a health maintenance organization base population: 263 subjects with clinically diagnosed probable AD, 133 subjects with other forms of dementia, and 100 cognitively intact controls.

MEASUREMENTS: Utilization records were examined for the 3 years preceding death.

RESULTS: In all subcategories and in aggregate, utilization and costs of care were either similar or lower for patients with AD than for the other groups, even after controlling for age, gender, and comorbidity.

CONCLUSIONS: Persons with AD do not incur higher costs than persons with other types of dementia or age-matched persons without dementia in a mature health maintenance organization during the last few years of life, when utilization is likely to be highest.

(C) 2001 by the American Geriatrics Society