The Australian population is growing sharply in numbers and becoming older by average at the same time. While this is a good sign that healthcare is largely delivering in the right areas, allowing people to live longer, it also puts an increasing strain on the healthcare industry.
To many, this is a puzzle that needs to be worked out. How do you continue to provide a high level of medical care with the workforce and its associated resources stretched more by the minute? According to research earlier this year from McCrindle, it's not likely to get easier. The group's recent study found that:
- The Australian population is expected to grow by more than 60 per cent by 2044;
- The median population age then will reach 40 years, compared to 37.3 today;
- The healthcare workforce will be slightly above this at 41.1;
- The aged care workforce will need 650 new recruits each month to keep up with demand.
To follow this thought, with an abundance of illnesses becoming more threatening in the latter stages of life, aged care is an area that is being monitored with particular focus.
For instance, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) recently found a link between arthritis and chronic disease – the latter being the most common cause of death in the country and both more common among the elderly population.
Arthritis and chronic disease heavily linked
According to research by the AIHW, comorbidities (that's when two illnesses occur at the same time) between these two health concerns are more common than perhaps first thought.
One in every seven Australians (3.3 million) reported having some form of arthritis in 2011-12, the organisation explained, with 2.4 million also having a chronic illness.
"The chronic conditions examined in today's release include cardiovascular disease, back problems, mental health problems, asthma, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancer," AIHW spokesperson Louise York explained.
Of these comorbidities, cardiovascular disease was the most common, with the illness occurring in 44 per cent of arthritis sufferers. With people likely to suffer from the effects of two or more major illnesses, many Australians will be keen to take care of their health early on in life with a health insurance plan.
Thinking about lifetime health cover
Those who are looking into the health benefits that could support them and their family into old age, lifetime health cover (LHC) will need to be taken into account.
The initiative is designed to encourage people to begin a health insurance policy in the younger stages of life, to protect the healthcare industry from the high costs often associated with elderly care.
LHC comes as a 2 per cent loading to health insurance premiums for every year the buyer delays their purchase beyond the age of 31 – up to a maximum of 70 per cent.
A person who takes out their first health insurance policy at the age of 50, for instance, will pay around 40 per cent more. Meanwhile, those who take out hospital cover for the first time before the 1 July following their 31st birthday will avoid the extra charge all together.
Cancer on downward spiral
It's not all bad news for elderly Australians, particularly when it comes to one of the most threatening global diseases. In a separate study, the AIHW also found that cancer mortality rates are on a downward trajectory
The exact size of the decrease has been modest, though no doubt significant. Back in 1968, the death rate from all cancers stood at 199 per 100,000 people. In 2012, this was 167 per 100,000. The AIHW said they expect this descent to continue.
"Between 2013 and 2025, the death rate from all cancers is predicted to continue this overall downward trend from an estimated 214 to 183 deaths per 100,000 males, and from 135 to 120 deaths per 100,000 females," a recent media release read.
To discuss your health insurance needs now – including those of your loved ones through a family health plan – and to plan for old age, contact HICA today on 1300 44 22 01 for free and impartial assistance.