NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Medicare to Swell with Boomer Onslaught

January 3, 2011

Baby boomers are about to create a record population explosion in the nation's health care program for seniors.  As of Saturday, 20 years of baby boomers began turning 65 and qualifying for Medicare -- one every eight seconds.  A record 2.8 million will qualify in 2011, rising to 4.2 million a year by 2030, projections show.  The program will grow from 47 million today to 80 million by 2030, according to USA Today.

At the same time health care costs are projected to outpace inflation, and medical advances will extend lives, straining the program's finances.  It's expected to cost $929 billion by 2020, an 80 percent increase over 10 years.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pegs the annual cost for each new Medicare beneficiary at $7,700 -- and rising:

  • The program has been slated to run out of money in 2017.
  • But Medicare's government trustees report that the new health care law could extend the programs solvency to 2029, if payments to physicians and other providers are slashed, which is unlikely.

Seniors' groups are geared up to fight any proposed cuts to Medicare that don't apply to all health care.  "Medicare is a reflection of health care costs in the overall American population," says Maria Freese of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.  "If all you do is cut Medicare, then all you're doing is rationing care for older people and the disabled."

Source:  Richard Wolf, "Medicare to Swell with Boomer Onslaught," USA Today, December 30, 2010.

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