The Affordable Care Act promises to add 32 million Americans to the rolls of the insured at a time when there is a shortage of primary care providers. There is broad consensus that the next phase of reform must slow the growth of health care costs and improve value through payment reforms, including bundling of payments and payments for episodes of care. Some savings will derive from implementation of innovative models of care, such as accountable care organizations, medical homes, transitional care, and community-based care.
In "Facts and Fictions About an Aging America" (Contexts, Fall 2009), our research group unpacked a series of widely held, inter-related misconceptions about our aging population and outlined the broad societal implications of the realities. With the realities articulated and myths exposed, we can start to explore how policy-makers can effectively invest across the life course to create a successful aging society. We call for a new approach to aging—one that involves not only new policies, but also new ways to think about aging in America.
Context: The aging of the baby boom generation, the extension of life, and progressive increases in disability-free life expectancy have generated a dramatic demographic transition in the United States. Official government forecasts may, however, have inadvertently underestimated life expectancy, which would have major policy implications, since small differences in forecasts of life expectancy produce very large differences in the number of people surviving to an older age.
Sociologists and others studying aging in the U.S. uncover myths that dominate public perceptions of the elderly. Educating our society about the facts on aging is a necessary step to ensure that future policies will promote a more equitable and productive America for all ages.