As Baby Boomers Age, Medicare Crisis Looms

Baby boomers appear to be taking better care of themselves than previous generations ever did. Many have planned well for their retirement and are dealing with their health issues aggressively. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts by 2050, more than a million Americans will be centenarians (count me among them). That's certainly good news.

What happens, however, when that avalanche of aging baby boomers begins tapping into Social Security and Medicare, underpriced and oversold social programs?

USA Today, one of my favorite newspapers in the world, hit this theme hard this morning in their week-long series, "Living Longer, Living Better" (free text link below).

One of the interesting facts that came up in the piece: Seniors who live longer, albeit through medical intervention -- for example taking useless drugs like statins to regulate their cholesterol levels or using gastric bypass to tame their obesity -- are a big drain to government programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Here's a great quote that sums up the dilemma we'll be facing very soon: The dirty little secret of public health finance is that cigarettes are a very cost-effective killer. Living longer is great for society but a disaster for government programs.

As medical innovations prosper in number and cost, according to Rand Corp., Congress, in an effort to control soaring social programs, may be forced to make life-and-death decisions about the benefits and costs of specific treatments.

Sounds pretty grim, especially if you're closer to retirement than your college years... My best prescription for beating these alarming numbers is to get healthy as soon as you can. Here are a number of basic strategies I write about regularly on my Web site that you can follow and a good way to remember them:

USA Today October 25, 2005

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