Tags: seniors | medicare | health

Graying of America Poses Health Challenges

Friday, 28 September 2012 11:35 AM

The aging of the U.S. population will have significant economic consequences for the country, particularly when it comes to healthcare, according to a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council.
The NRC also said that the unprecedented demographic shift is not a temporary trend tied to the aging of the Baby Boom generation, but a long-term change in which Americans over age 65 will make up an increasingly large percentage of the population.
"The bottom line is that the nation has many good options for responding to population aging," said Roger Ferguson, co-chair of the NRC committee that wrote the report. "Nonetheless, there is little doubt that there will need to be major changes in the structure of federal programs, particularly those for health. The transition to sustainable policies will be smoother and less costly if steps are taken sooner rather than later."
The new report warned that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are on “unsustainable paths.” The cost of the three programs adds up to 40 percent of all federal spending and 10 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Because of longer life expectancy and lower birth rates, the programs will have more beneficiaries and fewer workers contributing to them in the coming decades.
Combined with rising healthcare costs, the aging of Americans will drive up medical expenditures and eat up more national resources, the report concluded.
"The nation needs to rethink its outlook and policies on working and retirement," said Ronald Lee, professor of demography and economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and committee co-chair. "Although 65 has conventionally been considered a normal retirement age, it is an increasingly obsolete threshold for defining old age and for setting benefits for the elderly."
A follow-up study from the NRC will examine the long-term macroeconomic effects of population aging and provide quantitative assessments of specific policy choices.
The study was funded, in part, by the U.S. Department of Treasury and the National Institute on Aging.

© HealthDay

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The aging of the U.S. population will have significant economic consequences, particularly for healthcare.
Friday, 28 September 2012 11:35 AM
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