An Aging Society:

Meeting the Needs of the Elderly While Responding to Rising Federal Costs

HRD-86-135: Published: Sep 30, 1986. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) demographic changes projected for the elderly population; (2) the relationship of these changes to the economic and health-care status of the elderly; and (3) how changes in federal health and retirement programs could affect current and future needs of the elderly.

GAO found that: (1) while the growth in Social Security and public and private benefits has improved the status of the elderly over the past two decades, many elderly continue to have low incomes or incomes just above the poverty line; (2) the poor elderly population among blacks, women, and other individuals over age 85 is increasing at the fastest rate; (3) the rising costs of health care pose a major threat to the retirement income status of the elderly because they will be unable to pay the greater out-of-pocket costs; and (4) financing long-term care will become even more difficult and costly because the population most likely to need care, those over age 85, will be increasing faster than the total number of elderly and the number of families able to provide home care will decline. GAO believes that Congress will have to address the key issues of: (1) Medicare financing problems; (2) the impact of greater out-of-pocket health care costs on the poor elderly; and (3) how to finance the increasing costs of long-term care for the growing elderly population.

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