HEALTHCARE
January 4, 2019

What, Me Worry?

If you're over 50 yet too young for Medicare, healthcare costs and access are major sources of anxiety.

In the United States, people over 50 are worried not just about their health, but also about their health insurance, according to a recent University of Michigan poll of people aged 50 to 64. Those in this over-50 age group are facing growing health issues, often related to overweight, and they are concerned about how they will pay for healthcare until they turn 65 when they become eligible for Medicare. While Medicare does not pay all medical bills, it's certainly a good basic foundation for health insurance.

Roughly one in four people taking the survey said they didn't think they knew how to find out what medical procedures their insurance would cover or what the out-of-pocket costs would be.

The National Poll on Healthy Aging polled over 1000 adults between 50 and 64. It found people had a range of concerns about their health care coverage:

  • Nearly half of those responding to the poll were worried about being able to afford the cost of health coverage once they retire (45 percent), with 27 percent unsure they'll be able to afford their coverage next year.
  • Sixty-eight percent were worried about potential federal policy changes that might affect their health insurance.
  • Nearly one in five (19 percent) decided to stay in their current job rather than risk changing jobs or retiring, just to keep their health coverage.
  • The poll was conducted before December's court ruling on the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) constitutionality. One of the reasons the ACA was signed into law was to cut down on “job lock,” the situation where someone feels trapped in their job because leaving it also means leaving their health insurance behind.

    “As people age into the years when many chronic diseases begin to take hold, and when they're still years away from Medicare coverage, it's important to talk with someone knowledgeable about all the options for coverage to bring down out-of-pocket costs and better navigate health care in this critical period,” said Renuka Tipirneni, a physician-investigator in the Division of General Medicine at the University of Michigan, who helped lead the poll's design and analysis.

    Some aspects of health insurance may seem incomprehensible, but that simply means that you need to talk to someone who understands them better than you do. One in four people taking the survey said they didn't think they knew how to find out what medical procedures their insurance would cover or what the out-of-pocket costs would be. And those who think they know may find they are mistaken. Waiting until you're sick to figure out your coverage is a bad idea.

    Many people in the United States advocate switching to a single-payer universal health insurance system — in essence, Medicare-for-All.

    A full report of the poll's findings is available here.

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