The lack of growth in Social Security benefits and rapid rise in healthcare costs is causing a financial dilemma for Medicare beneficiaries that may be jeopardizing the health of many who are foregoing needed medical care. A new healthcare cost survey, conducted online by TSCL during October 2011, found that the majority of seniors responding spent a very significant portion of their Social Security benefits just to cover rising Medicare costs in 2011 after two years of receiving no COLA. The situation is leaving both seniors and disabled adults who are living longer lives without adequate financial resources for their retirement, survey participants say.
Comments from 766 of the more than 1,200 people who participated indicate that many seniors 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 supplemental insurance for Medicare find that they too frequently must choose to either postpone care or forego other necessities.
More than one-quarter of respondents spent from $300 to $599 a month on their healthcare during the first six months in 2011. With the national average monthly Social Security benefit in 2011 hovering around $1,100, that amounts to 27% to as much as 54% of their monthly payment. 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.
Fifty-one percent said they put off trips to the doctor and other routine medical care, including 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. And some, like the following, described situations nothing short of grim:
"Am on Medicare and still work at 81 years of age. Can’t afford half of medications if I didn’t have Blue Cross Blue Shield now. My medication out-of-pocket costs me more than $1,000 per month and that doesn’t include another $600 for my spouse’s medication. We need help and our deductible and co-insurance for office visits is very high. WHY? Sure need some kind of insurance that isn’t so costly… "(J.E., Hartselle, AL)
The survey was performed as the Congressional “super committee” worked on a plan to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. In the debate over deficit reduction, some contend that Medicare beneficiaries pay too little for their benefits and are over-using medical services. They say that if beneficiaries paid more they would use less healthcare services, saving the government money on Medicare.
The survey is powerful testimony to the fact that those who hold such beliefs don’t understand how much seniors have to spend for their healthcare now. TSCL would like to thank each and every one of you who participated in the 2011 Healthcare Cost Survey and who sent in descriptions of your personal situations. It makes a stark case to Members of Congress why Medicare needs to be kept affordable for beneficiaries while they look for ways to ensure program financing. The survey results are shared during visits with Member of Congress, used in press releases and to educate the public about the challenges seniors face in paying for their Medicare benefits.
What you can do: Become a TSCL “Senior Spokesman!” Tell your story to others. Join the effort to raise the awareness of the press, voters, and most importantly, Members of Congress about the financial burden of spiraling out-of-pocket Medicare costs and why making seniors pay even more simply is not an option. Share a description of your situation. Send your story here.