One-quarter of seniors have healthcare cost concerns

October 5, 2015

Managed care executives involved with Medicare Advantage products should consider the impact of product design and cost sharing on elderly consumers, according to the findings of a recent poll.

Managed care executives involved with Medicare Advantage products should consider the impact of product design and cost sharing on elderly consumers, according to the findings of a recent poll.

The poll of more than 500 seniors, conducted by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that more than one quarter of seniors aged 65 years and older are dissatisfied with their healthcare costs, and 23% say it has gotten harder to pay for healthcare over the past five years. Both concerns are higher among seniors who report poor health or a disability.

“The cost of healthcare is becoming an increasing challenge for consumers of all ages,” says Audrey Shelto, president, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. “Those with lower incomes or who have poor health and require more healthcare services are particularly impacted by the high out-of-pocket costs."

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Some seniors in Massachusetts, particularly those with lower incomes or in poor health, do not have adequate health insurance coverage, Shelto explains.

“This is leading some to deplete their savings on medical bills while others find it difficult to afford basic necessities. And others are taking steps which could adversely impact their health such as skipping a dose of their medication or not filling a prescription,” she says.

Other findings include: 

  • 81% of respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with the Commonwealth’s healthcare system. Those satisfaction levels exceeded 90% when seniors were asked about the care they had received during their last visit to a physician’s office or their most recent hospital stay. 

  • Despite strong overall satisfaction with the state’s healthcare system many seniors lack confidence they will have enough money or insurance to pay for healthcare in the future. This is particularly true for older adults in households living on $25,000 or less per year, about one-third (36%) of whom lack confidence in their future ability to pay. In contrast, only 10% of seniors in households living on $50,000 or more per year cite this concern. 

  • Between 11% and 12% of those making under $25,000 a year reported spending all or most of their personal savings on large medical bills (12%), being unable to pay for basic necessities (12%), or being contacted by a bill collector (11%). Among those earning $50,000 or more annually, just 2% reported such consequences.

  • Prescription drugs are particularly difficult for low-income seniors to afford, as 17% of report not filling a prescription because of cost concerns and 11% report skipping a dose of their medications. These figures for higher-income seniors are 5% and 2%, respectively.