The lack of growth in Social Security benefits, together with the inexorable rise in healthcare costs, is causing financial dilemmas for Medicare beneficiaries that may be jeopardizing their health. The situation is leaving both seniors and disabled adults who are living longer lives without adequate financial resources for their retirement, survey participants say.
A new healthcare cost survey conducted in October 2011 by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) — one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups — found that the majority of seniors spent a very significant portion of their Social Security benefits in order to pay for healthcare. The survey asked for information about the out-of-pocket costs that respondents paid in the first six months of 2011, and for comments about how they were managing after two years of receiving no annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
More than one quarter of respondents spent from $300 to $599 a month on their healthcare during the first six months in 2011. That ranges from 27% to as much as 54% of the average monthly Social Security payment, which is hovering at $1,100 this year. The majority of respondents, 45%, reported that they received a monthly Social Security benefit that falls within the range of $751 to $1,335 after deduction for the Medicare Part B premium.
Of the more than 1,200 people who participated, 766 sent in comments. Most described their personal challenges in meeting their healthcare expenses. In what may be a sign of the times, a surprising number indicated they are working far longer than they ever thought they would, even into their late 70’s and 80’s, because they don’t have enough to live on after paying their healthcare costs. Even seniors who do have good Medicare supplemental and drug coverage described how they keep costs in check by asking their doctor to prescribe generics, filling prescriptions for 90 days, splitting pills, and sticking to preferred pharmacies.
Fifty-one percent said they put off trips to the doctor and other routine medical care, some for months on end. Forty-four percent said they postponed filling prescriptions or were taking less of their medication than prescribed to make it last.
Some deficit cutters contend that the out-of-pocket costs that Medicare beneficiaries pay will have to go up and seniors should pay more for their Medicare benefits. “This survey is powerful testimony to those who hold such beliefs,” says TSCL Chairman Larry Hyland. “This survey indicates that they don’t understand how much seniors already spend for their healthcare, and how many have already cut back,” Hyland adds. “With the majority of seniors depending on Social Security for at least half of their income, and healthcare costs increasing several times faster than benefits, few beneficiaries can afford to pay any more than they already do for their healthcare,” he notes.
To learn more about proposals that would affect your Medicare and Social Security benefits, to get tips on reducing your Medicare costs, and to sign up for TSCL’s free online newsletter, The Social Security & Medicare Advisor, visit TSCL at www.SeniorsLeague.org.