The effects of an aging population on health care
The biggest impact that is happening to our healthcare system is the “Baby Boomer” population. Baby boomers are defined as those born between 1946 and 1964. This group of elderly individuals are over the age of 65 at this point. They have reached record numbers, and are looming around 79 million. These elderly people are flooding the healthcare market, pushing it beyond its threshold. We see it every day in the cost of healthcare and medicine; it has been skyrocketing over the past decade. Most elderly people receive medical subsidies through Medicare, rather than private insurance. Thus creating higher payments for all, higher taxes, and less monetary help for those in need.
Baby Boomers are a product of a strong economy after WW2. Society had confidence in the economy, that they would be able to financially support raising a family. The GI bill for soldiers enabled them to purchase homes and have access to good paying jobs. There wasn’t a inclination that, although the economy may be able to sustain an influx of people in this 20 year span, would our current economy today be able to support this larger than ever amount of retirees? My parents fall into this category: they reaped more than they sowed, and the generations proceeding them must pick up the pieces. Health care is the biggest piece.
There is a term floating around call the “2030 Problem.” It states by the time 2030 comes around, the current elderly population will double. They are growing at a rate of 10k every day. This growth is too fast for the amount of caregivers available, as well as hospital occupancy, and Medicare disbursements. This generation did not produce enough offspring to balance out the large number of aging adults. In the past, family and friends provided much of the care to the elderly, but now there are not as many young family members as their once was, this burden now lies upon public workers. It is “projected that by 2030 there will be only four potential caregivers available for each person 80 or older, down from a high of more than seven in 2010.”
Hospital’s capacity is another proponent in the lack of care taking needs. “A 2003 study of the Chicago health market, commissioned by its local hospital association, suggested that 4,500 more beds (approximately a 20 percent increase) would be needed there by 2020.” As we sit currently We are already reaching capacity in our hospitals in long term care units as well as ICU departments. Hospitals are now at a point where in the next ten years they will need to prioritise their care units to accommodate an undeniably growing elderly population that will not be cared for by their families. Not only do hospitals need expansion but the number of hospitals themselves also need to grow to accommodate. I believe that there needs to be an establishment of more nursing care facilities, and small hospitals dedicated to strictly geriatric care to help in this area.
The cost of a growing geriatric population, is felt by everyone. Medicare costs will double by 2024, and with people using medical care being retired, the ones fitting the bill are the young, healthy working class. “As health-care costs increase faster than economic growth, Medicare taxes and the Trust Fund will cover less and less. By 2033, some pundits say, the Trust Fund will be bankrupt, and taxes will pay only for 48 percent of the costs.” After Medicare, they are still left with a very large deficit. This is a very crucial time in the health care timeline, that we need to start formulating health care plans so that by the time millenials are reaching their senior years, we have a solid foundation of affordable health care.
Although we are faced with extreme financial problems and lack of resources when it comes to the Baby Boomers reaching such a high count, that's not to say it doesn’t come with benefits as well. Now that we have such a large portion of the population needing so much health care and medicine, it is causing a greater demand for newer and improved technology. This demand is essential for our advancement to create better ways of taking care of people. Innovations in technology will better help to screen for diseases earlier; seeing things before they get worse will help apply treatment to ailments to avoid an escalation in diseases and create better management. Helping people get better sooner, and faster, will alleviate some of the financial burden to the public and private providers. Advancements in medicine can help in the same ways. We can hope that some things non curable, or treatable today, may be completely eradicated in the next 30 years.
The rapid innovations we can hope to see in the future is an important facet of the next 30 years of the healthcare field, but even more important than that is prevention. We have been told for our entire lives that an important diet and exercise are keys to a long and healthy life. If we take care of ourselves naturally early on, there will be less time and money spent on undoing the poor choices we made earlier on. So many illness such as diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol, hypertension, and so on, can be avoided with healthy daily habits.
I have learned, and practiced early on, that by doing good things for my body, my body will be in better condition so that I may live out my later years with more comfort and abilities. I will be less reliant on long term medicine and care. I am currently enrolled in the RN program at Carrington College in Reno, NV. I believe in helping others through my work, as well as setting a good example to my children through healthy choices and good habits.
“Special Issue: Baby Boomers” The Gerontologist Vol.52 No.2 149-152 https://youtu.be/rKcu95yb-T4?t=660
“Huge shortage of healthcare looms for Baby Boomers” Bahrampour, Tara. Washington Post, August 26, 2013. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/huge-shortage-of-caregivers-looms-for-baby-boomers-report-says/2013/08/25/665fb2aa-0ab1-11e3-b87c-476db8ac34cd_story.html?utm_term=.f263ff30abc8
“Does US hospital capacity need to be expanded?” Bazolli, Brewster, Liu, Kuo. Supply & Demand. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/pdf/10.1377/hlthaff.22.6.40
“Health care dilemma: 10,000 boomers retiring each day.” Landau, Joel. Oct 3, 2017. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/03/health-care-dilemma-10000-boomers-retiring-each-day.html