Its no secret that the American healthcare system has some serious issues, from massive underinsurance to high treatment costs, the general outlook is pretty grim, which is why the issue has been a key point in the presidential election race. However, despite the rosy promises from the 3 main candidates the problems are about to get a whole lot worse. The issue is this, 78 million baby boomers (individuals who were born between 1946 and 1964) across the USA are about to reach retirement age and are entering a geriatric healthcare system that is simply not prepared for the patient load that it is about to receive.
As individuals age their propensity for developing a serious illness or chronic condition rise enormously, it is a simple truth that older people need more medical care than younger individuals. With this being common knowledge one would assume that the healthcare system would have adequately prepared for this eventuality, yet the reverse is true; doctors, medical facilities, and most importantly the domestic insurance industry, do not have access to the services required by geriatric patients.
An example of this upcoming fiasco can clearly be seen in
Add to this, already grim scenario, the shortfall in social security, the limited coverage offered by Medicare, and future budget cuts (expected to begin in July of this year), and essentially you are left with a healthcare system that is leaving a large proportion of Americans without the coverage, or treatment, that they deserve, but it doesn't end there. As the healthcare system struggles to address the problem with the baby boomers other parts of the population will have services denied to them.
So what are the options? How can the system possibly cope with a patient load of this magnitude that will require constant care and attention without suffering? A good start would probably be to totally re-examine the system as it exists today. With millions of individuals either underinsured or with no insurance coverage whatsoever, the highest costs associated with medical treatment in the world, doctors with insufficient training, a high patient to doctor ratio, and a patient load that will increase every year, especially with regards to care intensive conditions (approximately 18% of the baby boomer population, or 14 million people, are expected to develop Alzheimer's in their lifetime), it is difficult to see what can be done to resolve the matter of a system that is unable to cope with the burdens required of it.
One of the proposed solutions in to create a universal healthcare system that would be heavily subsidized by the government, however with the myriad of problems that currently exist in the system (namely healthcare in the USA being incredibly over burdened already) a universal healthcare service would be incredibly hard to implement. Add to this the wide ranging medical budget cuts, and it becomes evident that there is simply no room to create a national healthcare service providing low-cost, available care, despite the fact that this is tremendously appealing to the American public.
One, potentially, workable idea would be to subsidize the primary physicians as on of the major factors contributing to this situation arising is the extremely poor pay that frontline medical staff receive (half of the medical professionals providing care for the elderly receive less than US$ 9.56 an hour). If this is not workable, then perhaps low cost training could be used as an incentive to bring more qualified professionals to the field, as the training and qualification structure exists right now many doctors and nurses have to undergo extensive testing and, in some states, more than 150 hours on the job practice in order to be considered 'geriatric qualified'; that's a lot to ask for such poor reimbursement.
However, when looking at the reasons for this crisis and how it developed, a large amount of the blame seems to lay with Medicare, Medicaid, and the rest of the low-cost, 'budget', government backed insurers. By not providing quality coverage, creating absurdly low limits, and placing long lists of exclusions on many policies, these organizations don't seem to have the interests of their policyholders, or the American public, at heart. Many elderly patients require care from a team, rather than just one medical professional, yet this extremely valuable service is not an included benefit under a Medicare plan, depriving these older policyholders the treatment that they need.
There is no easy or quick fix for the present medical nightmare that is about to hit the USA, all the proposed solutions, and even the possible solutions, will require a large amount of money and a complete shift in the way that Americans obtain their healthcare. All that can be done now is to wait for the major problems to start and address them as they happen, that or purchase an insurance policy from a company not linked to the US government.