The 65+ population now makes up 16% of the US population, up from 11% in 1980. In response to an aging population, Medicare costs are going up. Benefits totaled $713 billion in 2018, 25% higher than in 2009, and Medicare spending accounts for a fifth of all healthcare spending as of the latest year of data.
However, while program costs are increasing, there is an interesting counter-trend – the per person cost for insuring someone through Medicare has actually decreased.
In 2018, the overall cost of Medicare per enrollee was $13,339 per year, about $30 less than it was in 2009, adjusting for inflation. That’s even as benefits across Medicare totaled $713.4 billion, $144.4 billion more than in 2009.
Why are the costs of insuring someone through Medicare going down? A combination of demographics and policy changes may point to an answer.
THE AVERAGE MEDICARE BENEFICIARY IS GETTING YOUNGER
The average age fell from 76 to 75 between 2007 and 2017. Enrollment in all types of Medicare increased 29% during that period from 44.4 million to 58.5 million.
That one year drop in average age is significant for Medicare costs.
An influx of Baby Boomers enrolling in Medicare is playing a role in slowing down an increase in costs for Medicare Part A, which funds hospital stays, skilled nurse facilities, hospice and parts of home health care. In 2008, the share of Original Medicare (Part A or B) beneficiaries who were 65 to 74 years old was 43%. In 2017, 65- to 74-year-olds made up 48% of beneficiaries, the group’s highest share in the 21st century.
A 2015 Congressional Budget Office study showed that we spend 73% more on an enrollee in the 75 to 84 bracket than we do on those in the 65 to 74 bracket.
Our analysis below show how demographics factor into Medicare costs, especially age.
In 2017, there were 38,347,556 Medicare Part A enrollees, making up 100.0% of total enrollees. The federal government spent $188,093,274,340 on program payments for this group, 100.0% of the total Total Part A program payments for this type of enrollee changed from $5,052 in 2013 to $4,905 in 2017, a -2.9% change.
With Medicare Part B there were 33,562,359 enrollees, making up 100.0% of total enrollees. The federal government spent $188,886,121,627 on program payments for this group, 100.0% of the total Total Part B program payments for this type of enrollee changed from $5,287 in 2013 to $5,628 in 2017, a 6.4% change.