If a renewed focus on strengthening Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is not taken seriously, the middle class will not have enough to retire.
That was one of the findings from a new AARP report, “The Effects of Rising Health Care Costs on Middle Class Economic Security.
The research highlights trends that will threaten the health and financial security of people now in their 30s, 40s and 50s when they are ready to retire, according to the association.
Among them, proposals that would increase the eligibility age for Medicare. AARP CEO A. Barry Rand said doing so would shifts costs and does nothing to rein in escalating health care spending.
He suggested reforms that both improve the quality of care and contain cost growth throughout the health care system, including in Medicare and Medicaid, through payment innovations, measures to lower drug costs, integrated care programs and continuing efforts to reduce waste and fraud.
“Unless we are able to reverse the trends that are driving the decline of the middle class, many of today's middle class workers will not have a middle class retirement,” Rand said.
The study, conducted for AARP by Harriet Komisar of Georgetown University, shows that over the past decade, the share of household budgets consumed by health care expenses increased by 51% – nearly double the growth in household average income (30%) and more than three times the rate of growth for all other spending on products and services.
The study also revealed that college graduates 45 to 54 years old will struggle to regain losses from the recession, and are projected to have 19% less income at age 70 than current retirees with a college education.
Social Security will account for 51% of per capita household income for future middle-income retirees, 69 % for low-income workers and 35% for high-income workers, according to the findings.
Rand recently spoke to the National Press Club to discuss findings from AARP Public Policy Institute's newly released "Middle Class Security Project," which studies how middle class working Americans struggle and often fail to build and maintain retirement security.
The future of Social Security is a separate process with a goal of strengthening it to help people achieve a secure retirement, not to reduce the budget deficit, Rand suggested.
“AARP is ready to have that discussion right now,” Rand said.