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California unprepared to meet LTC needs over next decade, new report says

November 21, 2013
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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A burgeoning senior population and the accompanying increase in expenses for their long-term care will pit the elderly against other residents as California tries to address multiple needs through its government programs, according to new research.

An unprecedented 44 percent increase in seniors over the next decade could nearly double California’s LTC costs, from $6.6 billion to $12.4 billion annually by 2023, in the state’s Medicaid healthcare system, according to a new socioeconomic analysis by University of California, Berkeley, researchers. “To meet the simultaneous increases in demand for LTC and other program areas, the state will be faced with making difficult fiscal trade-offs in the near future,” the researchers predict.

"This long-anticipated increase in seniors will impact Medi-Cal long-term care costs," says William H. Dow, PhD, lead author of the study, titled “Will Boomers Bust the Budget?” [PDF] and head of of U.C. Berkeley’s Division of Health Policy and Management. U.C. Berkeley and the state of California's Partnership for Long-Term Care released the study.

Several states are forecasting a large growth in their senior populations as baby boomers age and people live longer but with chronic illnesses such as obesity. California has the largest population of seniors in the United States, with 11 percent of its residents aged more than 65 years, according to state data. And residents of the state have the third-highest life expectancy, 80.4 years, although more than half of Californians aged at least 65 years are overweight or obese. Despite awareness of population trends, California’s infrastructure of LTC facilities is inadequate to support needs, the researchers say.

“California currently lacks the capacity to meet the future needs of its aging population,” according to the study overview. “Projected increases in demand for long-term care suggest that California seniors either will not be able to obtain the care they need or they will face delays in trying to obtain such care.” Residents who need long-term care may need to rely on family members, the researchers add.

The authors hope that the study findings will encourage families to discuss how they will address their LTC needs. Planning tools for the public are available at the Partnership for Long-Term Care's website.

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