Americans will live longer with more chronic illnesses

Americans can expect to live longer, but they will also live with an increase in conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and other ailments that will drive up the cost of their care, according to a study by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC).

Partly as a result, Medicare spending will more than double between 2010 and 2013, reaching $1.2 trillion. Both the chronic conditions and the fact that a large influx of Baby Boomers will soon enter the program are major factors in the cost run-up.

Yet even with more lives entering the program, costs per beneficiary could still increase by 50 percent over the next 20 years. Obesity, for example, is projected to impact 47 percent of Medicare enrollees by 2030, way up from the 28 percent obesity rate reported for Medicare beneficiaries in 2010. The percentage of beneficiaries suffering from diabetes is also expected to climb from 24 percent to 39 percent by 2030.

Demographically, a much larger swath of the U.S. population is expected to become obese in the coming decades. The current adult obesity rate, 38 percent, is up about three percentage points in just a couple of years. And while still relatively young, the Baby Boomers are already driving a significant increase in the number of joint replacement surgeries being performed in the U.S.

"It'd be one thing if there was an increase in life expectancy while maintaining health, but this is different. If you have more people that are disabled, it's more costly, and we're paying more because they're living longer," study lead researcher Dana Goldman, a professor at the USC and director of its Center for Health Policy and Economics, told Kaiser Health News.

Meanwhile, hospitals and others in the provider community should also be prepared to take care an increasing number of patients who will not be able to advocate for themselves or have people advocating for their best interests.

To learn more:
- read the report
- here is the KHN article