Home > News > Jack Uldrich: Life goes on -- really goes on -- and that's costly
June 21st, 2008
Jack Uldrich: Life goes on -- really goes on -- and that's costly
It was reported recently that U.S. life expectancy has topped 78 years. More interestingly, life expectancy -- which has been increasing by about two or three months a year -- jumped an impressive four months in 2007. This startling increase caused one demographer to note that it was "an unusually rapid improvement."
If one tracks, as I do, the progress in such fields as biotechnology, genomics, stem-cell research and nanotechnology, it is hard to envision -- barring a calamity that kills hundreds of thousands -- how life expectancy will do anything but continue to increase at "unusually rapid" rates as the number of deaths from a variety of diseases -- including heart disease, diabetes and flu -- continues to decrease.
This raises a series of vexing public-policy issues, not the least of which are the long-term sustainability of the Social Security and Medicare programs. Even without taking into consideration this past year's increase in life expectancy, the programs are already under a great deal of long-term financial stress. According to the trustees who oversee both programs, Medicare is expected to become financially insolvent in 2019 and Social Security will be exhausted by 2041.
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