Each day since January 1, 2011, another 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, and the health care industry is already feeling the strain. If the health care industry hopes to meet the needs of this independent, socially and politically active generation, it will need to evolve quickly over the next couple of decades.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has already extended health care access to 8.6 million uninsured adults aged 50 to 64, and 9.7 million insured baby boomers who struggled to pay high out-of-pocket costs.
The health care and insurance industries, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, will need to invest in more health care technology and emphasize preventative care and long-term insurance.In order to care for the aging boomers, the health care industry will need to address the growing provider shortage; you can become part of the solution to this shortage when you go back to school online to earn your RN-BSN.
Baby Boomers Will Want to Remain Independent
Members of the boomer generation are living an average of two years longer than their parents, and they want to stay active and independent long into retirement. That means baby boomers will want to remain in their own homes rather than move into long-term nursing facilities. Since many of them may have had negative experiences in providing for their aging parents’ care, they will want to maintain more control over their own care as they age.
The health care industry — and Medicare and Medicaid — will face increasing demand from aging boomers for more in-home care options. While some may rely on loved ones to provide their care, many will want to hire the services of professionals. Demand for home care providers is expected to go up.
Baby boomers will also need to prepare for the costs of home health care. Having a health aide come into your home three times a week costs $18,000 a year. Of course, the cost goes up if you need daily care.
Many boomers are expected to work past the normal retirement age, and this could help them save up for the costs of home health care. However, the insurance industry will be facing pressure to provide more long-term care insurance options for aging baby boomers to help mitigate costs.
Technology Will Play a Greater Role in Health Care
The health care industry is already using the Internet to empower patients with information about conditions and treatments. Social media networks like Patients Like Me are bringing patients together to share information, resources and emotional support; sites like these will become increasingly indispensable for baby boomers as they age.
Mobile apps and Web tools, along with interactive electronic medical records and doctor-patient communications tools, will also flourish on the health care scene in the future.
Technology will help baby boomers remain independent. “Granny pods,” for example, are high-tech pre-fab shelters you set up in a family’s back yard. These small homes come equipped with robotic technology that monitors vital signs and sends alerts in case of emergency. They allow aging boomers to keep their freedom while receiving care from relatives.
Demand for Care Providers Will Increase
The baby boomers’ sheer numbers mean demand for care providers, especially nurses, will soon increase. The health care industry is already facing a provider shortage, because most working nurses are also baby boomers, the problem will only get worse.
The health care industry will need to encourage these older nurses to move into teaching positions as it recruits younger nurses to provide care. Nurses are already becoming the new primary care providers as they seek more and more advanced degrees and fill positions once occupied strictly by doctors.
Of course, the nation is also facing a primary physician shortage; the health care industry will need to recruit more doctors to provide primary care to aging boomers, especially since health care reform means more of them have access to health care.
The health care reform law has also improved access to preventative care to people of all ages; boomers will need to be educated regarding their rights to preventative care, and its importance. Emphasizing preventative care is one important way the health care industry can keep costs down as it addresses the needs of a growing elderly population.
The baby boom generation is getting older, and the health care industry is changing to meet its needs. If baby boomers are to get the care they will need as they age, the health care industry will need more long-term care options and more care providers. But in the long run, boomer-led changes to the health care industry will benefit everyone.