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Medicare Makes Way for Baby Boomers
Date:1/3/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- It's been a long, strange trip from Woodstock to the nursing home, but baby boomers are getting there -- and soon.

The first boomers turn 65 this year and can start enrolling in Medicare this month, setting a ball in motion that will probably put further strain on an already overburdened system.

For starters, these seniors are arriving at Medicare's door with more health problems and more expectations than their parents and other generations before them.

A century ago, people died mostly from infectious diseases. Today, they're dying of chronic, lingering conditions such as Alzheimer's, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, said Dr. Stephen G. Jones, director of the Center for Healthy Aging at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Conn.

Today's elders are also used to demanding and getting attention. The aging golfer with a trick knee today goes looking for a knee replacement rather than suffering in silence off the links.

"We're talking 75 million people classified as baby boomers [who will] consume health-care services much more than their parents," said Dr. Bruce Koeppen, founding dean of Quinnipiac University School of Medicine in Hamden, Conn. "It's the 'Me Generation.' By their very nature, they will consume more health services."

"This will potentially put a huge strain on the system across the board -- economically, socially, politically, almost every sphere you can imagine," Jones added.

And who is going to take care of this momentous generation? Hard to say, given a shrinking pool of qualified geriatricians and primary care physicians.

"There are not enough people trained to take care of an entire aging population," said Alan B. Stevens, chairman of gerontology at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Temple.

According to Koeppen, 40 percent of physicians are themselves approachi
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