Does the Longevity of Baby Boomers Bode Ill for the Federal Deficit?

Published Jun 12, 2013. By Shamane Mills. In Wisconsin Public Radio News.

Sara Imhof of the Concord Coalition, a national group dedicated to eliminating the country's deficit, was in Madison Wednesday.

Imhof says aging baby boomers living longer will have consequences for Medicare and Social Security.

 The Congressional Budget Office recently announced the national deficit is declining due to health care costs. Imhof, the Midwest director for the Concord Coalition, says that it’s too soon to celebrate; she told Madison's downtown Rotary Club that the nation's elderly — those 65 and older — will double by the year 2025.

“We're all going to look like the state of Florida. One in five of us in Madison, one in five of us in Fond du Lac, [and] one in 5 of us in Iowa City is going to be 65 or older.”

She says seniors use three to five times more health care than younger people – and 50 percent of elderly persons have at least 2 chronic diseases. Both Social Security and Medicare are expected to grow in the next two to three decades, but Imhof says another major driver of the deficit could decrease:

“We think that the defense budget is actually going to stay stable and reduce. Discretionary spending is expected to be reduced as well.”

Discretionary spending goes to non-entitlement programs — things like transportation and education. Imhof says the country's current fiscal policy is unsustainable. So, she adds, is the political gridlock which prevents cooperation on solutions.