Has the price of increased life expectancy been greater rates of people living with disability? A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences challenges this popular assumption.
The share of older people with chronic disabilities fell from 26 percent in 1982 to 20 percent in 1999. The improvement is due to better treatments, prevention strategies, and lifestyle factors; and a strong economy, which boosts coverage.
Some policy experts were quick to jump on the findings as a hopeful sign for Medicare's solvency. Left unsaid was what the baby-boom retirement will mean. While less disability could help Medicare's short-term financial picture, the first of baby boomers become eligible for Medicare in 10 years, beginning a swelling trend in its ranks that will last 20 more.