Baby boomers: impacting the future of healthcare

Baby boomers: impacting the future of healthcare

By Dodge Communications on August 16th, 2012

My dad’s birthday is this month and he’ll turn 62. It got me thinking about how his generation has had a huge impact on how our country has evolved. Seventy-six million American children, commonly referred to as baby boomers, were born between 1946 and 1964. This baby boom has been described as a shockwave that remodeled society as it passed through it.

Today, industry statistics show that approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 everyday – that means every eight to nine seconds, another baby boomer now qualifies for Medicare. There are currently 48 million Medicare beneficiaries in the United States, a number that is projected to nearly double by 2030.

The dramatic spike in the number of Medicare beneficiaries means we’ll need more people to provide healthcare. A recent article states, for example, the demand for home health care workers is soaring as baby boomers get older and states try to save money by moving people out of more costly nursing homes. It goes without saying that the baby boomers will present both opportunities and challenges to not only providers but also payers as the managed care market will only continue to grow.

Keeping this significant growth in mind, Medicare recently began a dramatic shift from acute, reactive health care toward a system that makes prevention and wellness a priority. According to a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries today live with one or more chronic conditions which can be delayed or prevented by lifestyle modifications. In 2011, to help combat chronic conditions, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services established a free Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) for Medicare beneficiaries. However, to date, those taking advantage of the AWV have been very few, partly due to primary care physicians being spread too thin to offer the time-intensive visit. Unfortunately, it’s a lost opportunity not only to improve their patients’ lives, but to secure additional reimbursement for the visit and any additional tests resulting from it. Whether the push comes from patients urging their physicians to provide this service, regulatory compliance risks or technology streamlining this process, it is certain that AWVs will only grow in their level of importance.

So while my dad may be nearing retirement and soon to be eligible for Medicare, his generation is still making a big impact on our daily lives. Just as they helped shaped society growing up, it’s clear that baby boomers are going to play a significant role in the future of healthcare and how healthcare is being delivered. What are your thoughts on how baby boomers are going to affect healthcare? What type of impact is Generation X going to have on healthcare?