Baby boomer trend: Golden years in poor health

After the last of the baby boomers become fully eligible for Medicare, the federal health program can expect significantly higher costs in 2030 both because of the high number of beneficiaries and because many are expected to be significantly less healthy than previous generations.

The typical Medicare beneficiary who is 65 or older then will more likely be obese, disabled and suffering from chronic conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure than those in 2010, according to a report by the University for Southern California’s Schaeffer Center of Health Policy and Economics.

Adjusted for inflation, overall Medicare spending is projected to more than double between 2010 and 2030 to about $1.2 trillion. A massive influx of baby boomers into Medicare will be the main driver. With the last baby boomers turning 65 in 2029, Medicare rolls are expected to number 67 million Americans in 2030, the Schaeffer Center said.

But costs per beneficiary could grow by 50 percent over the same time due to longer life expectancies, shifting health trends and medical cost inflation, the report said. In inflation-adjusted dollars, Medicare is projected to spend 72 percent more for the remaining lifetime of a typical 65-year-old beneficiary in 2030 than a 65-year-old in 2010.

“It’d be one thing if there was an increase in life expectancy while maintaining health, but this is different. If you have more people that are disabled, it’s more costly, and we’re paying more because they’re living longer,” said lead researcher Dana Goldman at the University of Southern California.

“In some ways, we are victims of our success” in extending lives and preventing mortality, he said. “We’ve done such a good job of preventing cardiovascular disease that now we have more cancer and Alzheimer’s.”

The average life expectancy for 65-year-olds is projected to rise by almost a year from the 2010 norm, to 20.1 years in 2030. People with disabilities at 65 will extend their old ages, too — by more than a full year, to 8.6 years in 2030, the Schaeffer Center said.

Obesity is likely to surge, affecting 47 percent of Medicare elderly beneficiaries by 2030, up from 28 percent in 2010, according to the report.

“The people about to become eligible are more sick and obese (than past beneficiaries), even though there are treatments that will keep them living longer,” said Etienne Gaudette, a lead economist from the Schaeffer Center.

Significant increases in beneficiaries with these chronic conditions are also forecast by 2030:

Hypertension: 79 percent vs. 67 percent in 2010.

Heart disease: 43 percent vs. 36 percent.

Diabetes: 39 percent vs. 24 percent.

Three or more chronic conditions: 40 percent vs. 26 percent.

Smaller increases are forecast for elderly beneficiaries with cancer — 26 percent vs. 21 percent — and stroke — 19 percent vs. 14 percent. Lung disease is expected to see the slowest growth of all, about one percentage point to 16 percent.

That change is mostly due to Americans’ declining smoking habits. By 2030, 52 percent of Medicare’s beneficiaries will be lifelong non-smokers; only 43 percent were in 2010, the report said.

The Schaeffer Center’s report was published Nov. 28 in the Forum for Health Economics and Policy.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Bothell
2 injured in Bothell Everett Highway crash

The highway was briefly reduced to one northbound lane while police investigated the three-car crash Saturday afternoon.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Whidbey Renaissance Faire volunteers pose in their costumes. (Photo by Bree Eaton)
Faire thee well: Renaissance is coming to Whidbey Island

The volunteer-run fair May 25 and 26 will feature dancers, a juggler, ‘Fakespeare,’ various live music shows and lots of food.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.