Background: The four main diagnostic groups for palliative care provision are cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure and dementia. But comparisons of costs and care in the last year of life are mainly directed at cancer versus non-cancer or within cancer patients. Aim: Our aim is to compare the care and expenditures in their last year of life for Dutch patients with cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure or dementia. Design: Data from insurance company Achmea (2009-2010) were linked to information on long-term care at home or in an institution, the National Hospital Registration and Causes of Death-Registry from Statistics Netherlands. For patients who died of cancer (n = 8658), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (n = 1637), heart failure (n = 1505) or dementia (n = 3586), frequencies and means were calculated, Lorenz curves were drawn up and logistic regression was used to compare patients with high versus low expenditures. Results: For decedents with cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the highest costs were for hospital admissions. For decedents with heart failure, the highest costs were for the care home (last 360 days) and hospital admissions (last 30 days). For decedents with dementia, the highest costs were for the nursing home. Conclusion: Patients with dementia had the highest expenditures due to nursing home care. The number of dementia patients will double by the year 2030, resulting in even higher economic burdens than presently. Policy regarding patients with chronic conditions should be informed by research on expenditures within the context of preferences and needs of patients and carers.