An Aging Workforce Can Mean Higher Surgery Costs

As people live and stay active longer, you can expect more older people than ever in the workplace over the next four decades, and this can equate to an exponential rise in healthcare costs for plan sponsors. As AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins pointed out, when Ethel Percy Andrus first founded the institution in 1958, “there weren’t all that many older people around.”1

But that reality has completely changed. Consider these facts:

  • Less than two years from now, people age 65 and older will outnumber children age five and under.1
  • In 2030, this same age group will outnumber people age 18 and under.1
  • By 2060, the largest demographic in the US will be women 85 and older.1
  • Once you make it to 65, you can expect to live another 19.3 years, on average, according to the CDC.2
  • By 2024, 36 percent of 65- to 60-years-olds will be active participants in the labor market, up from 22 percent in 1994.3

All this is good news, but it means higher costs for employers as people remain in the workforce. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 21.8 percent of people age 65 and older are currently in fair or poor health.4 So, what health conditions do their employers need to be worried about the most?

  • According to the CDC, heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease are the three leading causes of death for seniors.4 Fortunately, the death rate from heart disease has dropped 27.8 percent in the last 10 years.2
  • Currently, 27 million Americans are affected by osteoarthritis, a condition that often leads to costly surgeries.5 In fact, more than 1 million total hip and knee replacement procedures are performed every year in the US.6 By 2030, knee operations alone may cost nearly $60 billion a year. Right now, 600,000 of these operations are performed annually at a cost of $9 billion, and it’s estimated that number will rise to 4 million by 2030.7

Employers can help reduce the costs of these conditions by encouraging regular checkups and screenings and offering wellness incentives. But meeting the health needs of the biggest aging population we’ve ever experienced will require a bigger, long-term strategy.

How BridgeHealth can help

Value-based surgery benefits from BridgeHealth require little or no out-of-pocket payments by workers and can help reduce healthcare costs for plan sponsors as well, by as much as 30 to 50 percent over typical PPO surgery costs. This can be significant as aging workers seek to improve their quality of life with surgical treatment to address mobility and pain.


  1. Jenkins, Jo Ann. “The Numbers Don’t Lie: Getting to Grips with America’s Ever-Evolving Age Demographics,”, March 20, 2016.
  2. Centers for Disease Control. “Mortality in the United States, 2012.”, November 6, 2015.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Older workers: Labor force trends and career options.”, May 2017.
  4. Centers for Disease Control. “Older Persons’ Health.”, January 19, 2017.
  5. National Institutes of Health. “Osteoarthritis Fact Sheet.”, March 29, 2013.
  6. Kremers, H. M., MD, MSc; Larson, D. MS;  Crowson, C. S. MS; et al. “Prevalence of Total Hip and Knee Replacement in the United States.” The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery., Sept 2, 2015.
  7. Cram, P., MD, MBA; Lu, X., MS; Kates, S. L., MD; et al. “Total Knee Arthroplasty Volume, Utilization, and Outcomes Among Medicare Beneficiaries, 1991-2010.” JAMA., Sept 26, 2012.
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