The good news is that business will be booming ...

John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Much has been written about how shifting demographics will fuel greater demand for long-term care services.

But far less is being said about an accompanying side benefit: higher service demands. Yet if current trends continue, higher percentages of our oldest citizens will be dealing with obesity, disabilities and chronic conditions.

At least, that's the conclusion from a report by the University for Southern California's Schaeffer Center of Health Policy and Economics.

Investigators predicted that while less than 30% of Medicare's elderly beneficiaries are now obese, the figure will balloon to 47% by 2030. We can also anticipate higher rates for hypertension (rising to 79% from 67%), heart disease (to 43% from 36%) and diabetes (to 39% from 24%). Meanwhile, the number of people in this cohort with three or more chronic conditions is projected to hit 39% (compared to 26% now).

A future filled with bad health is hardly something most people would look forward to. But in the same way that convoluted tax codes keep accountants in business, higher per capita care giving needs will aid eldercare operators.

From a headcount perspective, that may be encouraging. But as many operators have learned the hard way, it's one thing to provide care — and quite another to be reimbursed for it.

The study notes that if we are to factor in longer life expectancies, shifting health trends and medical cost inflation, Medicare will spend 72% more for the remaining lifetime of a typical 65-year-old beneficiary in 2030 than a 65-year-old in 2010.

So, yes, there will be more residents in the years to come. And they will need more services on average. But additional revenues will also be needed to cover those costs. And what's the fastest, surest way to put more money in the Treasury? Here's a clue: rhymes with braise axes.

But the last time I checked, there weren't too many politicians seeking office by promising higher taxes.

And if we are moving to a future where more services will be need at the lowest possible cost, an obvious question comes to mind:

Why are so many operators continuing to model themselves after hospitals, when they should be more like Walmart?

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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