Older, healthier and less costly? Posted by: mcq
on Friday, March 10, 2006
Well this is good news. Older people are getting healthier. (Since I'm getting older I read more stories like this ... go figure). But will we really be less costly in terms of health care because of it?
The next few decades will see an explosion in the percentage of Americans over the age of 65, but the economic and social impact of this Baby Boomer sunset may be gentler than had been feared because of a significant drop in the percentage of older people with disabilities, a new federal study has concluded.
That's nice. I guess that means we'll be in our late 70s and 80s before we finally kick the bucket. I'm not sure, in the long run, how they figure the social impact (read drain of health care resources and increase in health care costs) will be "gentler" than if we died off more quickly. I guess it's a relative way of looking at cost to government programs, but it would seem to me that longer life doesn't necessarily mean less cost. As I recall, the bulk of one's health care needs and expenses are in the last year of so of one's life. The fact that Baby Boomers may extend that time and have a little less of a demand in the intervening years between retirement doesn't necessarily mean anything will be saved or cost less.
In the meantime, fewer and fewer workers will be supporting more and more retired. Look at the numbers they cite:
In July 2003, there were 35.9 million Americans over 65, about 12 percent of the population. By 2030, federal officials predict, there will be 72 million, about 20 percent of Americans.
They will be a substantially different class of people than previous generations. In 1959, 35 percent of people over 65 lived in poverty. By 2003, that figure had dropped to 10 percent. The proportion of older Americans with a high school diploma rose to 71.5 percent in 2003 from 17 percent in 1950.
According to the report, nearly half of American men 65 and older were still working 50 years ago while today only about one in five men in that age group is still working. Some of the reasons cited: the growth in private pensions, Social Security and Medicare benefits.
More people. More people out of the workforce because of "government benefits" (I prefer "taxpayer benefits"). Tell me again how this will be "gentler" on the treasury?
Oh, and as mentioned below ... it is a government projection, so take it with the proverbial grain of salt.