Economists and public health experts from the UC Berkeley found that the number of California's retiring baby boomers will increase from 4.8 million to 6.9 million by 2023. As a result, researchers project Medi-Cal long-term care costs will nearly double in that same time period, from $6.6 billion to $12.4 billion.
But researchers said while the men and women of the baby boomer generation will live longer than their parents, their overall health is worse, especially among those considered obese.
"The enormous growth in the senior population, longer life expectancies, poorer overall Baby Boomer health and inadequate infrastructure in the form of care facilities will put overwhelming strain on the ability to care for seniors," researchers wrote in the report, called "Will Boomers Bust the Budget?"
"As the senior population grows, California can expect delays in care, unmet needs and skyrocketing costs for both the state and individuals."
The growth and health care needs also could cut into public spending on other state priorities such as education, corrections and transportation, researchers added.
"To families of seniors, employers and state budget officials this long-anticipated explosion of seniors is going to have dire consequences," lead researcher, Dr. William H. Dow of UC Berkeley's Division of Health Policy and Management, said in a statement.
Los Angeles County will see its own tsunami of baby boomers as the number of those 65 older will increase by 38 percent over the next decade, while those 85 and older will rise by 25 percent, slightly higher than the state average.
The study was funded by the California Partnership for Long-Term Care, an educational program of the California Department of Health Care Services that helps prepare residents to plan for long-term care needs.
Brenda Bufford, program director for California's Partnership for Long-Term Care, said only 10 percent of Californians have some sort of long-term health plan. She said those interested can go to the partnership's website at www.rureadyca.org to consider options.
"Now is the time for families to start talking, especially around the holidays," Bufford said. "We want families to start having conversations about long-term care and long-term care needs."
And she said the study is a good tool for policymakers.
"This study is giving the state the opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive to what will happen," she said. ___