What will the population of America look like in 2050 – and how will that affect the cost of Medicare? That’s one of the questions Politico looked at in a recent article by Tucker Doherty, which described the “Medicare time bomb” coming, with 7 charts.

One chart, showing expected age distribution by year according to U.S. Census estimates, shows 16% of the population, 52+ million people, eligible for Medicare. By 2050, estimates are that 23.6% of the population will be of Medicare-age, at more than 98 million people.

But the real distribution change is at the very top, of the oldest Americans. While 65-years-old or older Americans will grow by 67% from now until 2050, 85-years-old or older Americans will grow by an astronomical 189%.

And with more Americans living longer, than older group will make up for a large percentage of overall Medicare spending. As we’ve previously written about, 74% of Medicare spending goes to beneficiaries with four or more chronic conditions. According to Politico, “by age 85, nearly 1-in-4 has more than five chronic conditions.”

Communication can help – a recent Healthmine survey found that 46% of Medicare members receive no communication from their plans about their chronic condition, while 19% report communication occurring just once per year. Plans communicating more with their members can help control costs and prevent further expensive conditions from getting worse.

“The combination of all of these factors has set the program on a path to dramatically expand as a share of the economy,” reports Politico’s Doherty. What plans and political leaders do in the near future will have major reverberating financial effects.

About The Number:

The Number is a timely column from HealthMine highlighting a key statistic that is pertinent to the US health care industry.