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Medicare growth strains healthcare system

USA Today analysis: Beneficiaries live longer, but they have multiple chronic conditions

As the baby boomer population enters its Medicare years, beneficiaries tend to be sicker than their predecessors. They also live longer. The combination will strain both beneficiaries themselves and the Medicare system at large, USA Today reported.

The newspaper analyzed Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data on Medicare spending in 2012. Two-thirds of the nation's nearly 27 million traditional Medicare beneficiaries have multiple chronic conditions, the article said. (The analysis does not include the more than 17 million Americans covered through Medicare Advantage plans.) Roughly 15 percent, or 4 million, have more than six chronic conditions, USA Today said. They alone account for more than 40 percent of Medicare Part A and B spending, which hit $324 billion in 2012.

At the same time, life expectancy in the United States continues to rise, the article pointed out. That means seniors with conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure and Alzheimer's must deal with--and pay for--their conditions for longer than ever before.

As a result, the Medicare system faces a stark reality, according to the article: Traditional medical practice, which focuses on a single illness or part of the body, puts both patients and the system as a whole at risk. Annual spending on both traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage will likely top $1 trillion in 2023, according to the Congressional Budget Office, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

"The healthcare system is not oriented toward [beneficiaries'] needs," Gerard Anderson, a professor at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, told USA Today, adding that the average senior citizen with five or more chronic conditions fills 50 prescriptions and sees 13 physicians annually. Those specialists don't always communicate with one another, a problem that can lead to missed diagnoses, hospital readmissions and additional medical costs.

Some systems recognize the need for change. The southern campus of New Jersey's Monmouth Medical Center reduced readmissions among elderly patients by 39 percent and boosted patient satisfaction scores by improving care coordination and transitions of care for Medicare patients with multiple chronic conditions, USA Today said.

For more:
here's the USA Today article

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