Fundamentals Briefing

Aging in America: Current and Future Trends in Health, Income, Assets and Personal Health Care Spending
November 6, 2015


Sally Coberly, PhD


For the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, many organizations have held meetings and conferences to assess the past successes and future challenges of these programs. These events have also focused renewed attention on the current and future health and economic well-being of older Americans. Questions being asked include: Are today's older Americans healthier and more prosperous than previous generations? Will older adults in 2030 be better or worse off than current cohorts? How might changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security affect specific groups of current and future older adults?

The population age 65 and older is heterogeneous and many factors, not just age alone, play a role in determining a person's economic status and well-being. Many of these individuals enjoy better health care and economic status than members of previous generations did, but others have not shared in these overall improvements. While most analysts agree that the well-being of older adults as a whole has improved significantly over the past 50 years, there is less certainty about whether—and for whom—this trend can be sustained.

Proposals to change Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security have been offered by both Republicans and Democrats over the past several years; many of these ideas are likely to resurface during the run-up to the 2016 election. To help inform debates about the future of these programs, this Health Policy Essentials briefing provided information on the characteristics of today's 65 and older population as well as projections for the future. It covered basic demographics such as the size and age distribution of the population, health status, living arrangements, etc., and it focused in-depth on income and assets and personal spending for health care.


Elayne Heisler, PhD (bio)
Specialist in Health Services, Domestic Social Policy Division, Congressional Research Service

Gretchen Jacobson, PhD, MS (bio)
Associate Director, Program on Medicare Policy, Kaiser Family Foundation

Juliette Cubanski, PhD, MPP, MPH (bio)
Associate Director, Program on Medicare Policy, Kaiser Family Foundation

Related Materials

Gretchen Jacobson et al., "Income and Assets of Medicare Beneficiaries, 2014-2030," Kaiser Family Foundation, Issue Brief, September 2015.

Juliette Cubanski et al., "How Much is Enough? Out-of-Pocket Spending Among Medicare Beneficiaries: A Chartbook," Kaiser Family Foundation, July 2014.

Dana Goldman and Etienne Gaudette, "Strengthening Medicare for 2030: Health and Health Care of Medicare Beneficiaries in 2030," June 2015.

U.S. Government Accountability Office, "Retirement Security: Most Households Approaching Retirement Have Low Savings," GAO-15-419, May 2015. 

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