Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Baby Boomers - A Healthcare Crisis is Approaching?

Numerous studies show that many baby boomers have unstable insurance coverage, and those who have low income, individual coverage or no insurance at all spend a significant chunk of the money they do have on health coverage, often with limited access to care.

While the U.S. healthcare system spends far more than other countries on healthcare, they fail to get commensurate value for the health care dollars spent.

According to a survey report from The Commonwealth Fund, over 60% of adults ages 50 to 64 who are working (or have a working spouse) have been diagnosed with at least one chronic health condition, such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

The report also points out that one-fifth of older workers and their spouses either have no healthcare insurance or have been uninsured at some time since age 50.

Many Older Adults have Inadequate Healthcare Insurance Coverage
The report finds that many insured older adults have healthcare plans that do not provide adequate protection from medical costs.

About 6% of insured older adults in working families are underinsured. Their healthcare coverage does not protect them against medical expenses that are high relative to their income.

One-third of all respondents in the survey have medical bill problems or accrued medical debt, and nearly one-quarter said there was a time they went without needed medical care because of cost.

What Worries Older Workers about the Current Healthcare System?
There is a lack of confidence in healthcare coverage among older workers, and a lack of support for policy options that would improve access to healthcare.

Older workers and their spouses with low and moderate incomes are worried about the affordability of healthcare insurance coverage. However, while older workers with low incomes were most at risk for being uninsured and having gaps in healthcare coverage, even those with moderate incomes face high rates of unstable healthcare coverage. More than one-third of those with incomes between $25,000 and $40,000 said they experienced a time with no healthcare insurance coverage at all.

Changes needed to improve the health care for baby boomers
The report proposed some options that might do a better job of addressing the healthcare problems that aging baby boomers face as they approach retirement: (1) Add special Medicare health accounts for expenses not covered by Medicare; (2) Allow people to get into Medicare early, helped by tax credits for people with low incomes; (3) Eliminate the two-year waiting period for disabled individuals to be covered by Medicare.

As millions of aging baby boomers demand more from the already strained health system, it is imperative that U.S. move toward a high performance system of healthcare that is affordable, equitable, safe, efficient, and patient-centered. But what are the appropriate measures to take anyway?


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