Uncertainty About Health Insurance Clouds Hope for Retirement

February 7, 2020

Employer-sponsored insurance keeps many working.

Travel, grandchildren, more time for leisurely pursuits-those are some of the things Americans look forward to when they contemplate retirement.

Medicare coverage has also been on that wished-for list. But according to the results of an online survey of Americans in the pre-retirement, 50 to 64 age range, worry is clouding hopes pinned to Medicare.

Close to half (44.6%) of the 1,028 survey respondents reported a low confidence level about their ability to afford health insurance when they retire. Roughly a fifth (18.8%) said they stayed in a job, delayed retirement-or considered doing so-in order to hang on to their employer-sponsored health insurance. Lastly, about 1 in 7 (13.2%) said they did not get healthcare in the past year because of the cost.

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These attitudes and experiences may play into the politics and policy of Medicare, and myriad proposals, mainly by Democrats, for Medicare for all, a public option, or Medicare buy-in.

Lead author Renuka Tipirneni and her colleagues said policy makers should recognize healthcare coverage is a top issue for this demographic.

The survey, sponsored by AARP and University of Michigan’s academic medical center, was conducted in October 2018. The results were published recently in JAMA Network Open.

Tipirneni acknowledged that like all online surveys, this one may not be representative of the entire population because it leaves out people who don’t have internet access. But the authors also cited data that shows nearly 90% of people in the 50 to 64 agegroup had internet access by 2018.