California's Aging Population Could Strain Health Care System

California Healthline

August 12, 2015

California's health care system could struggle to meet the demand of the state's growing aging population, according to two new reports, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports.

Details of CHCF Report

According to a report by the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), California's population of residents ages 65 or older is projected to more than double by 2040. As a result, that population's demand for health care services will increase, but the effects will be disproportionate depending on service type and location.

CHCF publishes California Healthline (Walters, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/6).

In 2012, nearly two-thirds of seniors in California had at least two chronic conditions, and more than one-third had four or more chronic conditions. The report suggested that the presence of multiple chronic illnesses will increase aging Californians' demand on the state's health care system (CHCF report, August 2015).

As such, there could be a shortage of services, including:

  • Home health care;
  • Long-term care; and
  • Skilled nursing and residential living facility beds.

However, seniors likely will have access to enough acute care hospital beds ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/6). Specifically, the report noted that acute care use by seniors has fallen since 2008, and acute care days could decrease by 15 percent by 2040 if those trends continue. However, acute care days could increase by as much as 50 percent in that time if current use rates remain unchanged.

Meanwhile, the report projected that senior population growth and health care utilization increases will vary by region. For example, individuals ages 65 and older in 2010:

  • Accounted for 10 percent of the population of the Inland Empire, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and is projected to account for 20 percent by 2040; and
  • Accounted for 10 percent of the population of San Joaquin Valley, and is projected to grow to 16 percent by 2040.

The report estimated that the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley will barely have enough acute care beds to meet demand if such trends continue (CHCF report, August 2015).

Details of PPIC Report

Meanwhile, a separate report by the Public Policy Institute of California projected that the state's 65-and-older population will nearly double in the next 15 years, HealthyCal reports (Perry, HealthyCal, 8/6).

That trend is "clearly indicating an increased demand for health and support services," the report noted. As the number of adults in "prime working age" decreases compared with the aging population, a larger share of the state's human and economic resources will be needed to provide health care and other services to seniors, according to the report ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/6).

Meanwhile, California's nursing home population is likely to grow because of an expected increase in seniors with "self-care limitations." Specifically, the report noted that more than 106,000 Californians will need nursing home care in 2030, up by 16 percent from 2012.

According to the report, the expected aging population growth will require additional resources and providers, including:

  • Geriatricians;
  • Medical assistants;
  • Nurses;
  • Nurse practitioners; and
  • Physician assistants (HealthyCal, 8/6).

"California's community college system will be critical in training workers to meet the state's health care workforce needs for the growing and changing senior population," according to the report ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/6).



On Aug. 28, 2015, the Chamber's Health Care Council will engage presenters from the Hospital Association of Southern California, Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to talk about California's growing health care workforce needs. Please join us at 10 a.m. to share your perspectives and organizational activities as we look ahead to 2016 and beyond.

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