The Health 202: Policymakers are realizing health is about a lot more than just care
A whole host of factors — such as friends, housing and transportation — affect a person’s health and how much they need the social safety net. It’s time the government’s big health insurance programs took this reality into account, some lawmakers and policymakers are starting to argue.
Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee will release a report today finding that Americans have fewer people around to help provide care as they age compared with two decades ago. It says Medicare and Medicaid spending projections may be too low because they fail to take into account the declining social networks of aging baby boomers.
The study found adults from ages 61 to 63 are now less likely to be in close geographical proximity to their loved ones. Seventy-five percent were married or cohabitating in 1994, compared with 69 percent in 2014. The share of adults attending church at least three times a month fell from 56 percent to 41 percent, and the share of those with a child living within 10 miles fell from 68 percent to 55 percent during the same time frame.
“That generation is going to have many fewer friends and children and spouses and people from church to care for them as they get old,” said Robert Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard University who testified at a 2017 hearing on social capital convened by the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Mike Lee (Utah).
“We’re not going to just leave them on the street, so more of them will have to be cared for through paid care,” Putnam added.