Graying of Texas: Part 2

State officials and health experts say Texas is heading for a crisis in health care for a population that's getting older and poorer all the time. Some experts think the impact of this crisis can be avoided, or at least reduced.

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This crisis is already close to critical mass. The first wave of baby-boomers will hit retirement age just six years from now, and by the year 2040, boomers will total nearly a fourth of the Texas population, and put unprecedented demands on the health care system. The problem is compounded by a growing shortage of doctors. Texas Geriatrics Society President Doctor Steve Levy says there's a ray of hope in the fact that Medicare now reimburses doctors for preventive care, which makes it more affordable, and more accessible.

Levy says he applauds Medicare for recognizing the value of preventive care in keeping people healthy well into old age, but the problem is that Medicare doesn't come close to reimbursing doctors for all the time they spend caring for their patients, and this hurts seniors because senior need more time and attention. Doctor Robert Roush of the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor College of Medicine says disparities like that are driving people out of geriatrics, and too many young doctors aren't coming into it because they don't see it as a field in which they can make a decent living.

Houston Internist Doctor Clifford Dacso treats a lot of retired seniors in private practice and at the Veterans Hospital, and he says it's really very simple: people who want to be healthy when they get old need to live healthy now.

Dacso says aging baby boomers know that health care will be a precious commodity for them in just a few years, and it's just common sense to live healthier now, so they won't need so much health care then.

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