The number of older Americans in the United States is rising every day. It passed 50 million in recent years and is expected to reach 70 million over the next 25 years. This means that there is an increased need for doctors who specialize in gerontology in addition to providing other services. Here are some of the challenges facing health care as the senior population increases.
Doctors wanted in the future
One of the primary issues facing the healthcare system is the lack of physicians. A report recently released from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) says that by 2033, there will be a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 doctors. Evidence of the coming shortage has already been proven with the COVID-19 pandemic. People over the age of 65 contribute to this shortfall due to more growth between 2018 and 2033. Their numbers are expected to grow 45.1% compared to the national population which will grow 10.4%
Older Americans typically require specialized care more than a younger patient. It’s also not easy to find that specialized care. Becoming a gerontologist takes a significant amount of time because it requires a fellowship and certification after residency and medical school. This takes between 8 and 10 years to complete and gerontologists are usually not well paid.
Increased Heath Care Costs
Along with having a larger population of older people, there are going to be increased costs for care. Because caring for the elderly is more complex, it’s more expensive. Among people who are in the top 5% of those who spend the most on medical care, the cost is around $98,000 each year. Out-of-pocket costs are also very high even when factoring in insurance and Medicare. And older people who spend more in one year are more likely to continue spending more on care as they get older.
In addition, the cost of medical care increases between the ages of 70 and 90 to around $59,000 representing about 16.8% of spending for those over the age of 65. Because these costs are so high, Medicare, Medicaid, and seniors themselves are not going to be able to keep up with this increased cost without some kind of change.
Demands for Long-Term Care
Long-term care demand will increase with the number of seniors to come over the next decades. But this doesn’t mean that each person is prepared to pay the cost. Many older people find themselves in this situation which is why they often turn to Medicaid for help. Medicaid is a significant payer for long-term care, and it is expected to reach $576 billion by the year 2025.
Other options other than a long-term care facility are also impacted by the influx of seniors. Finding caregivers or having a family caregiver who is appropriately trained will be more difficult. Without sufficent long-term care at home, in a nursing facility, or in an assisted living facility, seniors will continue to face increases in expenses.
Chronic Conditions and Drug Prices
Chronic conditions play a role in the impact aging Americans will have on the health care system. These conditions often necessitate increases in a need for health care, higher costs, and also the need for long-term care. This means that the health care system as a whole will also need to be more innovative when it comes to the delivery of care.
These conditions may require prescription medication over the course of years. Prescription drug costs are significant drivers of healthcare cost after medical care. Because programs like Medicare Part D only offer a certain amount of prescription drug cost reductions for seniors, they’re left to cover remaining costs after insurance kicks in.
Healthcare organizations themselves are going to have to prepare for an increase in older patients. One way they can do this is to reach older people with innovation. This means taking advantage of technological tools such as Telehealth, fitness trackers, and remote monitoring. These tools can help health providers understand their patients better and improve the care experience they have.
Making sense of all the new cents
As the silver tsunami begins to impact the health care industry, there will have to be further considerations given to reducing health care costs. As this article has shown, health care in America as it relates to older people is a very complex problem with no easy solution. But as the older population begins to rapidly increase, perhaps the solutions will as well.