Aging Baby Boomers and higher health care costs to impact long-term care

November 21, 2013

UC Berkeley School of Public Health researchers state in a new study that an unprecedented increase in seniors over the next decade could nearly double Medi-Cal long-term care costs, from $6.6 billion to $12.4 billion annually by 2023.

“This long-anticipated increase in seniors will impact Medi-Cal long-term care costs,” said lead researcher William Dow, professor of health economics and head of the School's Health Policy and Management division, which released the socio-economic analysis. “The huge baby boomer generation is now retiring. Over the next ten years, California will experience a 44 percent increase in seniors, jumping from 4.8 million today to 6.9 million by 2023.”

An 88 percent increase in public expenditures for institutional long-term care is projected over the next decade. Since nearly 90 percent of long-term care is provided by family and friends, the growing demands not only impact state coffers, but family caregivers as well. Family caregivers, the study says, report higher levels of mental and physical health problems and are generally uncompensated for their services. For their employers, the demands of caregiving also hurt productivity and increase absenteeism.

“The burdens on family caregivers are enormous,” explained Brenda Bufford, chief of the state of California’s Partnership for Long-Term Care, which funded the study. “This research highlights those challenges, which are especially pressing when you realize that 70 percent of seniors will need long-term care.”

The study concluded that Californians should strongly consider planning ahead to ensure they live their later years with quality and dignity. At some point, they may require in-home or nursing home assistance with basic, daily functions that are often taken for granted. Without proper planning, paying for long-term care can be a devastating financial burden.

California Partnership for Long-Term Care is a consumer education program of the California Department of Health Care Services. Californians can log onto the Partnership for Long-Term Care website, which offers a free planning tools and access to long-term care insurance policies.