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The Transformative Promise of Aging Research

Date: December 1st, 2012

A momentous trend affecting the health of both our citizens and economy will unfold over the next two decades as baby boomers reach their high-risk years for diseases of aging. One of the most worrying aspects of this shift is its effect on the federal budget as the U.S. government is confronted with ballooning healthcare bills. Recent projections suggest that Medicare, which boomers began enrolling in this year, will be insolvent by 2029, though that may happen sooner if optimistic assumptions about its future costs prove wrong. Growing federal deficits largely due to healthcare costs have already put us on “a path of debt growth that is unsustainable,” according to a recent assessment by Harvard healthcare policy researchers. Even if we greatly reduce the growth rate of healthcare spending, which historically has exceeded GDP growth by about 2.5 percentage points, our estimated federal debt-to-GDP ratio will still reach as high as 200% by 2050—nearly quadruple the current ratio of 53%. A debt burden that heavy, wrote the Harvard researchers, could well lead to “financial Armageddon.”

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