Two-thirds of older Americans see health care costs as a financial burden: survey

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At least two-thirds of older Americans see healthcare costs as a financial burden, according to a new West Health-Gallup survey published Wednesday.

About 24 percent of Americans aged 50 to 64 say healthcare costs are a major financial burden, compared to 48 percent who say the costs are a minor burden, according to the survey.

Of Americans aged 65 and older, 15 percent call it a major burden and 51 percent a minor burden.

The population aged 65 and older is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years as the baby boomer generation ages past the threshold.

About 10,000 boomers a day cross the age threshold. By 2030, all boomers — about 77 million people — will be at least 65 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

At the same time, healthcare costs are expected to increase. The out-of-pocket costs for older Americans averaged $6,883 in 2019, up 41 percent from 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported.

Although most older Americans are covered under Medicare, they pay more than $1,000 on average than the general population because Medicare does not cover all expenses, such as dental, vision and hearing services. Increased demand because of the high number of older adults is also pushing up costs.

The West Health-Gallup survey shows 37 percent of U.S. adults aged 65 and older are extremely concerned or concerned they will be unable to pay for needed healthcare services over the next year.

Of those aged 50 to 64, the percentage is even higher: 45 percent are extremely concerned or concerned about being unable to pay for healthcare costs.

The Biden administration has worked to expand healthcare coverage and lower costs since taking office last year.

The American Rescue Plan Act passed last year lowered premiums by 40 percent and cut back on out-of-pocket expenses through tax credits.

And President Biden signed an executive order in April that would extend Obamacare coverage for a qualifying individual to include all family members.

Biden is pushing to pass another legislative package, the stalled Build Back Better act, which would expand Medicare coverage, lower prescription drug costs and extend the tax credits included in the American Rescue Plan.

Meanwhile, about a third of Americans aged 50 to 64 are cutting back on at least one necessary expense, such as food, clothing and utilities, to cover rising healthcare costs, the West Health-Gallup survey shows. About 24 percent of adults aged 65 and older say the same.

The survey was conducted by web from Sept. 27-30 and Oct. 18-21 among 6,663 U.S. adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

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