Medicare Benificiaries Are Sicker than Their Predecessors, Study Finds

Jun 16, 2015

Debby White retired early to take care of her husband Jack, who has Lewy body disease, one of several chronic conditions the family is juggling.
Credit Robert Deutsch / USA TODAY

USA TODAY reports that, not only are more Americans becoming eligible for Medicare, they are increasingly sicker than their predecessors. Diagnoses of kidney disease, depression and high cholesterol have seen double-digit increases since 2008. In addition, over half of all Medicare beneficiaries have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Two-thirds of today’s Medicare beneficiaries have multiple chronic conditions, and 15% have at least six long-term ailments. Those sickest 15% make up 41% of Medicare spending. In some areas of the country, it’s worse: 24 counties of Texas saw 85% of all Medicare's spending go to a small number of the sickest seniors. 

In the past, care has generally focused on one illness or one organ, and these new combinations of diseases are wreaking havoc on the Medicare program. More than 10,000 people turn 65 each day, and this has led some to call for widespread changes in the US healthcare system.