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Seniors View Medicare’s Future with Some Angst

By Lisa Zamosky

Worried Man

How confident are you about the future of Medicare? If you’re like many people, your answer may be “Not so much.”

A new poll from the disability claims organization, Allsup, finds that while seniors are generally happy with their existing Medicare coverage, they’re worried about Medicare’s future.

Of the 1,000 people age 65 and older questioned for the poll, 61% said that their top retirement-related concern is their Medicare benefits. More than four in 10 respondents expressed general concern about their ability to pay for health care in retirement, including long-term care.

Medicare Satisfies

Just shy of half the seniors polled (45%) say they’re currently “extremely” satisfied with their Medicare coverage. About the same number (44%) are “somewhat” satisfied. That’s fairly high praise for a health benefit program, particularly in today’s world of rising costs.

Understanding that changes to the Medicare program must be made in order to prevent its near-term insolvency, 71% of the seniors Allsup polled said they would be willing to pay more money to keep their existing benefits in place.

Making Changes to Save Money

While most seniors don’t want to see changes made to their Medicare benefits, many are willing to make some adjustments to the way they get their medical care to save money.

  • Nearly 80% of respondents say they’ve switched to generic forms of prescription medications as a way of lowering costs
  • 60% have taken advantage of no-cost preventive screenings
  • 34% have talked with their health care provider about an alternative treatment or medication to lower their out-of-pocket costs.

As yet another sign of the impact health care costs are having on other forms of household spending, nearly six in 10 respondents (59%) reported that they cut back in other areas to afford medical treatment. Most upsetting among the cutbacks reported:

  • 26% spend less on groceries to afford their medical care
  • 20% have cut back on housing costs, including spending on utilities
  • 15% have had to reduce their spending by cutting back on medical care

And while today’s seniors express concerns about their ability to pay for their health care needs, including out-of-pocket costs (61%), insurance premiums (53%) and prescription drug premiums (53%), they offer up three distinct pieces of advice to Baby Boomers who haven’t yet reached retirement age:

  1. Save up while you can to cover your future Medicare costs
  2. Get professional help when planning for you needs under Medicare
  3. Plan to pay more for your coverage than you expect.

What do you expect from Medicare? Share your thoughts below.

Photo: iStockphoto

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