December 17, 2014

Aging Population Means Challenges on Long-Term Care

  • The American health care system is a patchwork of public and private programs that serve citizens in different ways, depending on their age, military...

As more baby boomers retire and the over-65 population rises from 12 percent of Americans in 2010 to 25 percent in 2030, paying for their care will become increasingly difficult, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warns in a new report.

The budget office notes one estimate that two-thirds of people over 65 will at some point in their lives need assistance, such as nursing home or in-house care, due to cognitive or physical limitations. About half of those who receive such care rely on “informal caregivers” such as family and friends.

Some experts expect a 70 percent increase in the total number of people requiring care by 2050.

This assistance, known as “long-term services and supports,” currently accounts for 1.3 percent of GDP but is projected to increase by at least 46 percent and perhaps as much as 150 percent by 2050.

This means difficulties for Medicare and Medicaid programs, which pay for much of the spending on these services.

On Thursday a special commission, created as part of the fiscal-cliff legislation passed in January, met for the first time to start considering some of these challenges. The Commission on Long-Term Care plans to discuss Medicare, Medicaid, private long-term care insurance and ways to deal with long-term care costs.

These costs are one of the key challenges facing the country as its population ages and millions of older Americans leave the work force each year. This challenge deserves careful consideration by members of the new panel -- and the rest of Congress.