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Diminishing Coverage a Concern for Older Americans

Sluggish wage growth and rising out-of-pocket health costs make it hard for many workers to save for retirement. But saving is especially difficult for older workers, who have higher rates of chronic disease, and consequently higher out-of-pocket medical spending, than younger workers.

According to a newly released analysis of findings from the Commonwealth Fund Survey of Older Adults, nearly a quarter (24%) of Americans ages 50 to 70 fail to get health services because of cost. The survey, conducted among a nationally representative sample of adults ages 50 to 70 in late 2004, also found that older adults without health insurance, as well as those with coverage purchased on the individual market, are most at risk.

Older adults without adequate coverage may suffer poor health from skipping care and may enter the Medicare program with more acute—and expensive—conditions. They are also at risk of spending large shares of their income on health expenses.

Perhaps because of these risks, the older adults who participated in the survey expressed strong support for policies that would help them save for their future health needs and long-term care costs not covered by Medicare. Support was widespread, across the political spectrum, for proposed Medicare Health Accounts, which would enable adults to set aside 1 percent of their wages for medical costs. In addition, there was broad support for policies that would allow older adults to buy into Medicare before age 65.
IMPORTED: www_commonwealthfund_org__usr_doc_site_docs_images_interest1percent.gif

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