The conditions that are creating the perfect healthcare storm have been taking shape since 2011. That was the year that the leading edge of the baby boom generation turned 65. Boomers are defined as individuals born between 1946 and 1964.
Their numbers are legion more than 70 million strong, which comprises a bulge in America’s aging demographics. Boomers make up 26% of the U.S. population. Each year, until about 2030, 21/2 to 3 million will turn 65 and become enrolled in Social Security and Medicare.
Never before in our history have there been so many older people or such a large percentage of them. As late as 1930, America’s older population numbered less than 7 million only 5.4% of the population.
Today, one out of every 9 Americans is “old” another former youth turns 50 every 8 seconds; those age 65 and older now exceed 35 million. But that number is poised to explode. As noted above, January 2011 ushered in the first of approximately 77 million Baby Boomers and surging toward the gates of retirement. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012)
That not only means that tens of millions of people will be hitting social security and Medicare, it means that millions of skilled, veteran workers will be out of the work force. Millions of others will continue to work part-time. That translates into two negative economic factors, falling tax revenues and rising healthcare costs.
The most recent U.S. Census Bureau brief (on data from the 2010 Census) shows seniors increasing faster than younger populations, raising the nation’s median age from 35.3 in 2000 to 37.2 in 2010, with seven states having a median age of 40 or older.
Last year America’s 50 and older population reached 100 million out of a total population of 320 million.
Boomers go Bust Health-wise
The looming storm clouds are on the horizon now. A study of the health of boomers just published showed that this generation is not as healthy as their parents were.
According to the American medical Association, only 13.2 percent of baby boomers claim to be in “excellent” health, compared to 32 percent of their parents’ generation. The authors write:
Despite their longer life expectancy over previous generations, US baby boomers have higher rates of chronic disease, more disability and lower self-rated health than members of the previous generation at the same age.
Forty percent of the boomers in the study were obese, compared with 29 percent from the older group. 52 percent said they were not physically active, while only 17 percent of the older generation made that statement.
The results of this study, combined with the above changing demographics, paint a dire portrait of the future of the county.
Health care spending in the U.S. now accounts for 17.6 percent of GDP, a figure that will continue to grow in spite of Obamacare due to the changing demographics. The problem, of course, is that America already has the most expensive healthcare system in the world.
We spend about twice as much, per capita, than the international average, $7,500 versus $3,600.
Thus far, the health providers have largely gotten the brunt of the blame for our apparently excessive healthcare costs. However, a number of studies have revealed that Americans are in fact generally unhealthier than their counterparts in other countries.
Public expenditures on health care, including Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance and direct care programs, account for nearly half of all health care spending. With millions of new Medicare recipients hitting the system into the foreseeable future, health care costs will continue to rise.
That increase is going to be greater than heretofore anticipated due to the failing health of the baby boom generation.
In spite of Republican resistance taxes will need to be raised to fund these programs. The only alternative being to make radical changes in the Medicare program to reduce costs; the recent health reform law (Obamacare) raised Medicare taxes on high-income workers to keep it solvent without making major changes.
However, no one has really been taking the declining health of boomers into consideration since it was not firmly established.
The recent report changed that situation.
Now that it is clear that aging boomers are not in good health the projected demands on the delivery system, i.e., doctor’s office visits, hospital stays and medications are going to need upward revisions
This comes as somewhat of a surprise since boomers were running and hiking all of the country back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. They were supposedly on the leading edge of health food movement, going to the gym, and taking vitamin supplements.
In truth, it is not just the boomer segment that has health issues. The younger generations have high rates of obesity and even diabetes type 2, which did not even strike the below 40 populations until the late 1990s.