Baby Boomers Driving Uneven Health Care Cost Increases
Baby boomers will contribute to an 18% increase in health care costs by 2050, according to a study conducted by Minnesota-based insurer HealthPartners, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
The study, published in Health Services Research, found that costs are not projected to increase uniformly across major categories of medical practice. The estimated change in per capita costs due to aging will be highest in the field of kidney disorders, where spending is projected to rise by 55% between 2000 and 2050, according to the research.
For heart and vascular conditions -- the largest major practice category -- per capita spending is projected to increase 44% during that time period.
However, per capita costs are expected to decrease for post-natal care, chemical dependency and pregnancy/infertility care as a result of demographic change, according to the study.
E. Mary Martini, a study author and senior consultant with HealthPartners' informatics division, also said that among people older than age 85, data show that per capita costs declined as they approached age 100, a finding that she said is difficult to explain and merits further study. Researchers also found differences based on gender, with male costs for heart and vascular conditions up to 60% higher than female costs.
"While this difference may be explained by the natural history of heart and vascular conditions, part of the gap may represent under-treatment of women and/or over-treatment of men," according to the study. Martini said the study could contribute to health planning and calm fears about increases in health care costs. She noted that an 18% increase in health care costs between 2000 and 2050 amounts to 0.3% per year (Snowbeck, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 3/6).
An abstract of the study is available online.
In related news, the earliest baby boomers are experiencing more health and psychiatric problems than people at the same age 12 years ago, a finding that "raises some doubts about whether reduced disability in old age observed over the past two decades will continue," according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Scripps Howard/Arizona Daily Star reports.
The study -- led by Beth Soldo, director of the Population Aging Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and sponsored by the National Institute on Aging -- surveyed groups of 20,000 U.S. residents over the age of 50, beginning in 1992. About 57% of U.S. residents born between 1936 and 1941 surveyed while between the ages of 51 to 56 rated their health as "excellent" or "very good."
Only about 50% of those born between 1948 and 1953, surveyed in 2004 while ages 51 to 56, rated their health as "excellent" or "very good." The youngest group surveyed -- which included early members of the baby boomer generation -- was more likely to report problems with daily activities, such as walking, climbing stairs or kneeling compared with the oldest group.
Soldo said the study did not ask people about their weight, and she noted that the increase in reporting of health problems in the younger group might be related to higher levels of obesity, which can lead to a variety of health problems. Soldo said, "Our findings certainly run counter to the prevailing expectations of generally good health in old age, the idea that we'll all be running marathons when we're 100 and drop dead unexpectedly" (Bowman, Scripps Howard/Arizona Daily Star, 3/6).
The abstract of the study is available online.