Elder Care Will Kick Up Health Costs by 25% in Coming Years

The cost of caring for aging U.S. residents by 2030 will add 25% to the nation's overall health care costs unless those residents actively work to stay healthy and preventive services are provided to help them, according to a CDC report released Thursday, Reuters reports. The report, titled "The State of Aging and Health in America 2007," was funded by Merck's charitable foundation.

The report found that 80% of U.S. residents age 65 or older have at least one chronic condition that could lead to early death or disability. The report also found that the cost of caring for older U.S. residents is three to five times greater than the cost of caring for younger adults, indicating the increased need for preventive health care directed toward elderly U.S. residents, researchers said (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 3/8).

According to the report, the U.S. is meeting federal benchmarks for the care of elderly residents in four of 11 categories. Those four categories include smoking cessation, mammogram screening, colorectal screening and cholesterol monitoring.

The U.S. does not meet goals for improved oral health, physical activity promotion, flu and pneumonia vaccination, and hip fracture prevention.

Thirty-nine percent of elderly whites, 29% of elderly Hispanics and 24% of elderly blacks say their health is very good or excellent (Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, 3/9).

The report also found that across the 50 states, Hawaii provided the best health care for its elderly residents, ranking highest in overall health, mental health and disability, and it had the lowest percentage of obese elderly residents.

West Virginia ranked the worst for overall health, oral health and disability in its elderly residents. Kentucky had the highest number of elderly residents with mental health problems. Louisiana reported the highest levels of obesity, with 25% of its elderly residents considered obese.

Comments

Lynda Anderson, a chronic disease and aging expert at CDC, said, "You have some regions that are doing extremely well in a lot of areas and others that are struggling to get these services to older adults." She added, "There are certainly areas that we need to really pay attention to."

Bill Benson, a health care benefits and policy analyst who advised CDC on the report, said, "We are going to see an increase in health care costs, but the goal has to be to restrain the rate of increase. Prevention is the key to that." Richard Murray, a vice president at Merck, said, "We have the opportunity for prevention. We need to be serious about it" (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 3/8).

James Firman, president of the National Council on Aging, said the report "confronts brutal facts for all of us" (Chicago Sun-Times, 3/9).

The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat to view this report.


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