Life Expectancy and Retirement

I’ve blogged before about the cost of healthcare in this country and how it compares with other industrialized nations across the planet. Of the top 25 such countries, we rank in the bottom 20% in terms of healthcare outcomes (longevity) and what we pay to achieve that dubious distinction. And our longevity numbers have dropped a bit over the past three years.

Over the past century plus, child mortality has dropped dramatically. From a statistical perspective, if you eliminate a lot of early deaths, the average life expectancy of babies who leave the womb will increase. So why are our life expectancy numbers declining?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer three reasons:

  • A rise in drug overdoses
  • An increase in liver diseases
  • A rise in suicide rates

The last time we had a three year decline in average lifespan in the US was a direct result of World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic.

You may now be asking what any of this has to do with retirement.

If you happen to find yourself in middle age, having not died from a drug overdose, or a suicide, chances are at some point you are going to find yourself leaving the workforce and transitioning to retirement. If you have liver disease, it’s likely you will have a shorter retirement.

I’ve just recently had my second bionic knee installed. Today, pain management is a prominent element during recovery, and the remedy of choice is a drug with an opioid component. I was told not to hold back if the pain became difficult to bear; take another pill. I was told to stay ahead of the pain since if I didn’t, I’d be tempted to take more pills than were recommended.

Since knee replacement, along with hip replacement and other joint remedies are very fashionable these days, many more of us are fighting the resultant pain with opioid based drugs. Guess where a lot of those drug overdose deaths are coming from?

It’s a two edged sword. Or is it three? We live in a country where exceptional health care can be found if you can pay for it. Many millions of us are living longer once we reach retirement age than ever before, meaning retired people are taking advantage like never before in advances in medical technology. Who wants to stagger around every day in pain when Medicare will foot most of the bill?

And while this is happening, medical regulatory agencies are imposing restrictions on the medical profession that result in restricted access to effective pain meds. You can no longer refill an opioid based drug without providing personal identification. You can no longer get a 30 day supply. Assuming your doctor will authorize a refill, you can only get a weeks worth of pills unless you’re prepared to tough it out and stagger about in pain.

Despite all this, I can tell you what I see from this side of the grass is much more attractive than what I assume I’ll be seeing when I finally get to the other side.

Tony Kendzior \ 15 JUL 2019