Between the ages of 55 and 64, chronic illnesses become more common and the use of ambulatory and inpatient health care increases, compared with younger ages. This segment of the population is projected to grow rapidly during the next 10 years, driven by the aging of the baby boom generation.
The current population aged 55-64 differs in health status and prevalence of disease risk factors from past cohorts of adults aged 55-64. In 2006, adults in this age range were more likely to be obese and hypertensive than their counterparts about a decade earlier, but both cohorts were just as likely to exercise regularly, and the 2006 group was slightly less likely to smoke cigarettes.
Because of continuing advances in medicine, the 2006 cohort has had more opportunity to take advantage of drugs, tests, imaging, procedures, and surgeries than its 1996 counterpart.
This report, compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, examine how health care utilization has changed for persons aged 55-64 – a group that is about to enter the Medicare program, and which has been a recent focus of the health care policy debate. Examining the utilization patterns for this large and growing group may offer insight into policy debates and Medicare beneficiaries’ health care utilization in the future.
Increasing care visits
Ambulatory surgery visit rates were 66 percent higher in 2006 than in 1994-1996, though inpatient hospitalization rates were similar in 2006 and 1996. Hospital emergency department (ED) visit rates were 19 percent higher in 2006 than in 1996. Physician office and hospital outpatient department (OPD) visit rates were 13 percent higher in 2006 than in 1996.
Use of ultrasound or MRI/CT/PET scans increased substantially in ambulatory settings over the past 10 years; the percentage of physician office and outpatient department (OPD) visits with an ultrasound or MRI/CT/PET scan ordered or provided during the visit was higher in 2006 than in 1996, while the percentage of these visits with an X-ray ordered or provided during the visit was lower.