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10,000 People Are Enrolling in Medicare Every Day

‘Silver tsunami’ has huge ramifications for health care industry

About 10,000 people are now enrolling in Medicare every day, according to an article in Forbes.

That’s a record surge in Medicare enrollment, and it’s expected to continue for the next 15 years as Baby Boomers age into their golden years. It also means that the total number of Medicare beneficiaries is expected to double within the next 20 years.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that 80 million Americans will be Medicare-eligible by 2035, if current trends hold.

Some analysts have a name for the wave of change that’s coming — they call it the “silver tsunami,” and it has huge ramifications for the health care industry, the article says.

Older Americans, for instance, generally need more ongoing and expensive care. The government currently spends more than $10,000 per Medicare beneficiary every year, with costs spiking in an enrollee’s last years of life.

“From the government’s perspective, they will spend, on average, nearly $450,000 for the new age-65 Medicare beneficiary during their expected lifetime,” actuaries at the Health Care Cost Institute reported in 2013.

It’s another reason why the White House is so insistent on changing how Medicare pays for patient care, in hopes of reining in federal spending.

During the past decade, the number of all U.S. jobs has grown by 6% — but the number of home health jobs has grown by 60% as more aging Americans with chronic illnesses need support and care. Meanwhile, more doctors are hanging up their stethoscopes as an unprecedented number of physicians hit retirement age.

And one driver for Aetna’s $37 billion acquisition of Humana is that Humana is a major player in the Medicare Advantage sector — a rapidly growing insurance market.

There’s another demographic change worth noting: America’s fertility rate has reached a record low. That won’t mean much in the short term, but as the number of elderly Americans steadily climbs as a percentage of the population — about 20% of all Americans will be Medicare-eligible by 2030, up from 13% today — it will put increasing pressure on working-age Americans to support them.

That brings up some hard questions: How will the U.S. pay for a much-bigger Medicare program? And who will care for our seniors?

Source: Forbes; July 13, 2015.

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