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Study Shows Seniors Struggle to Pay for Healthcare

Over 25% of seniors in America lack emergency funds to pay high out-of-pocket healthcare costs

Stethoscope on dollar banknotes

Oct 20, 2021 – recently released a survey with insights on healthcare spending from Americans 65 years of age and older. The survey found that older Americans are struggling to cover out-of-pocket healthcare costs.   In fact, 27% of the 1,176 senior Americans surveyed had less than $500 in emergency savings to pay for medical bills. 

While the chart below shows that approximately 43% of senior Americans have over $3,000 saved for emergencies like medical bills, more arrowing is that nearly one in five respondents reported having no savings to cover medical bills. 

It is encouraging to see that over 50% of Americans have at least $500 saved for emergency out-of-pocket healthcare costs, but that still leaves too many without the ability to pay for care. 

In many cases, $500 is not even enough to cover the bill. Almost a third of seniors stated that they received a surprise medical bill within the last 12 months. For 18% of them, the bill was over $500. In fact, 36% of Americans over the age of 65 reported that they spent more than $1,000 on out-of-pocket healthcare costs over the course of the last year.

Inability to Cover Healthcare Costs Leads to Deferred Treatment

The biggest issue with the fact that many older Americans do not have adequate funds saved to cover healthcare costs is that this often leads to deferring treatment. 26% of those on original Medicare reported deferring dental, hearing, or vision care in the past year to cut costs. 

Struggling seniors also look to cut out-of-pocket healthcare costs elsewhere. 65% tried to cut costs on prescription drugs by seeking generic versions or asking for a discount on larger supplies. 

In addition to deferring treatment, many seniors face a grim outlook on healthcare expenses. 67% reported being somewhat or very stressed out about paying for high out-of-pocket healthcare costs, with 46% concerned that a major health situation could put them in medical debt or bankruptcy. 

The good news is that there are some options out there for seniors. A recent ACHP fact sheet showed that some seniors under Medicare Advantage plans are experiencing lower healthcare costs. This is due to the out-of-pocket healthcare spending cap. 

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