...In 20 years, it is not unreasonable to speculate that the average age at death will be far north of the current 77. Many, instead of dying at 60 or 65 or 75 will live a long and full life. We will be dodging the bullet on Alzheimer's, heart disease, many forms of cancer and strokes that take far too many of us at an early age. That is a wonderful prospect.
But it will blow to pieces the current mortality projections that Social Security is built on. There will be lots of baby boomers who will be collecting their checks a lot longer than currently thought. And forget about how long our kids will live.
Of course, if we can use drugs to avoid long expensive stays in the hospital that will actually cut medical costs. But on the other hand, the demand for a drug that can remove heart plaque or blood clots will be monster. Care to suggest those won't be eligible for Medicare?
And as the cost of scanning, gene tests and other forms of disease detection comes down, everyone is going to want it, and then want the therapy to cure what is found. Market rule #1: the cheaper something is, the greater the demand. Re- generating nerves and some of the really gee-whiz technology in 20 years are not going to be cheap. The longer people live, the more new knees and hips they are going to need.
In short, projecting Medicare costs in 20 years based upon current trend lines is probably about as accurate as projecting the NASDAQ based upon 1990-2000 performance. Things are changing so rapidly. But as more and more technology becomes available, you can bet more and more people are going to want to get access.
The cost in the future is likely to be higher unless we re-structure the system now to contain costs. This may take some creative thinking like rewarding people with tax incentives for living a healthy lifestyle and thus costing the system less money.