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Medicare Beneficiaries Are Not Exempt From Cost-Based Barriers to Care

Medicare Beneficiaries Are Not Exempt From Cost-Based Barriers to Care

A recent Commonwealth Fund survey report shows that a third of Medicare beneficiaries, including more than half of those under 65, have found it difficult to afford health care costs this year. More than one in five beneficiaries reported delaying or skipping needed health care because of the cost, including more than four in 10 under age 65. Over half of these respondents reported worsening health problems as a result. More than one in five beneficiaries also said health care costs made it harder for them to afford food and utility bills.

This was even more pronounced among younger beneficiaries—over 40% had such experiences. In more concrete terms, nearly one in four beneficiaries under age 65 and more than one in seven older beneficiaries reported that health care costs consumed more than 25% of their monthly budget.

Contrary to common assumptions about wealthy older adults enjoying lavish benefits, many people with Medicare, both over and under age 65, struggle to pay their health care related out of pocket costs. These individuals, many of whom have complex health care needs and live on fixed incomes, experience cost-based barriers to care and face health care costs that impact their ability to afford other essentials.  

Health care costs are a problem for all Americans—even those with Medicare. We urge policymakers to act swiftly and thoughtfully to reduce systemic and beneficiary costs. As related Commonwealth Fund survey analysis notes, “…many Americans, regardless of where their insurance comes from, have inadequate coverage that’s led to delayed or forgone care, significant medical debt, and worsening health problems. While having health insurance is always better than not having it, [these] findings challenge the implicit assumption that health insurance in the United States buys affordable access to care. Difficulties affording care are experienced by people in employer, marketplace, and individual-market plans as well as people enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare.”

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