As an aging baby boomer, I was a bit disturbed last month when I read, according to the U.S. government, the Social Security retirement program is on track to go bankrupt three years earlier than expected. Those of you who have followed my posts here on the HIMSS Blog know I celebrated my 63rd birthday earlier this year, and I am closer to filing for Social Security than not.
As I understand it, unless something happens soon, retiree pension checks would start running out in 2033, when I am 84. Since my dad and mom both lived until their late eighties, I expect living as long, if not longer.
So. us baby boomers include:
- 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964
- Indivduals who started to retire last year, and
- Some 10,000 boomers expected to retire every day for the next 19 years.
This recent announcement also means an increased strain on Social Security unless much-needed legislative changes occur.
Along with this news about Social Security, I also read the Medicare healthcare fund is headed for exhaustion in 2024, the same date estimated last year. We know the window for dealing with these issues is closing rapidly. With the election coming up this November, I do not to expect to see any action from the Administration or the Congress to address these potential funding shortfalls.
The declining condition of the Medicare and Social Security funds – blamed on the aging population and rising healthcare costs – indicates that we have to do something to overhaul these benefit programs.
So what is the solution?
Well, I am all for means testing, possibly raising the retirement age and cutting some benefits to the wealthy to close the funding gap in the Social Security program. Advocating for these types of fixes has been compared to touching the third rail of American politics.
One key way to help solve the shortfall predicated in the Medicare healthcare fund is to encourage the rapid implementation of more Accountable Care Organizations. The ACOs have the potential for transformational change by fundamentally altering the clinical, operational and business models driving much of today’s healthcare industry.
As health IT advocates, we have to make sure that our fellow citizens and consumers understand health IT’s impact on the success of ACOs. Until recently, hospitals and physicians primarily provided care while health plans paid for that care. Up until now, these entities have been completely separate.
ACOs are going to change that.
- Physicians will monitor their patients more; and
- Payments will be divided among doctors, specialists, nurses and others providing care.
The goal is to not only offer a financial benefit to the patient, but also, by lowering some of these healthcare costs through the ACOs, to help lower healthcare costs for the states too.
By the time I am collecting Medicare, I am hopeful ACOs will be the law of the land, and the financial savings will result in extending the Medicare healthcare fund beyond 2024. ACOs have the potential to shift focus from treating the sick to keeping people healthy.
I know we do not have all the answers yet, but I really believe that ACOs will create a better, more sustainable future for my family and me. What do you think about the potential for ACOs to improve healthcare delivery?