April 8, 2013
Demographics There is no disputing that health care costs are on the rise. New medical technologies and prescription drugs have been mentioned as primary contributors, but longer life spans and a growing aging population have been placing tremendous demands on the health care system. As Americans age, they are faced with an increasing prevalence of chronic diseases. According to Blumenthal (2011), more than 75% of health care costs stem from chronic diseases. This number is likely to increase as the baby boom generation shifts the demographics of the elderly population. This paper will describe the aging population demographics known as the Baby Boomers, the impact they will have on the health care market, and contributing factors that affect health care. Before looking at factors that can affect health care, it is important to define this specific population and some key factors related to this population’s demographics.
Aging Population Demographics Baby boomers’ and aging population are terms used synonymously. The phrase “Baby Boomers” describe the population group born in the years following World War II when there was a sharp rise in the birth rates. The time frame spans from 1946-1964. Between 2010 and 2030, a record number of baby boomers, 76 million, will reach age 65 (Austin & Wetle, 2008). Boomers are more diverse than previous generations in ethnicity, education, and interests. This population is considered better educated with a college graduation rate twice that of the current generation of elderly. This bodes well for the physical health of the aging population because there is a strong correlation between education level and disability. However, improvements in physical health increase longevity that delays boomers using older people’s services for longer periods of time. Although boomers may not use these services until later in old age, pressure on these services is likely to increase as old-age-related conditions, such as dementia, become more prevalent in the population that is very old (Williamson, 2008).
Influence on the Health Care Market Health care is the nation’s second largest industry, exceeded only by durable goods manufacturing (Pointer, Williams, Isaacs, & Knickman, 2007). A major impact the aging population will have on the health care market is the increased demand for geriatric and long-term care. As longevity increases, quality of life becomes increasingly important. Boomers actively participate in preventative care and rarely hesitate to seek out medical advice from their physicians. As boomers age, physicians will see an increase in workload based on increased office visits, number of tests run, number of prescriptions filled, and number of claims to be processed. The aging population will also increase the demand for home health services and long-term care requirements. Long-term care is and will continue to be one of the fastest growing sectors of health care (Austin & Wetle, 2008). While some elderly may live at home as they age, others may choose some form of assisted living facility. These changes in the health care market will affect health care by increasing the demand in professional services. As office visits rise, so too will the need for additional providers. An aging population will also increase the demand for surgical services which may exceed the supply of general surgeons. The predominant burden of disease will call for specialists to care for chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and so on. Marketing for nursing will surge with the demand for home health care nurses and an increased staffing requirement for assisted living facilities. Nursing schools will focus on in home health care and nurses will see greater opportunities as the industry grows. Training to provide quality