From Commonwealth Fund
“More than half of Medicare beneficiaries with serious illnesses reported difficulties paying medical bills, with prescription drugs posing the greatest problem,” the Commonwealth Fund finds in a new study. “More than one-third of seriously ill Medicare beneficiaries said they had used up all or most of their savings to pay for their health care”
What the Study Found
- More than half (53%) of Medicare beneficiaries with serious illnesses reported experiencing a problem paying a medical bill. Prescription drugs posed the greatest hardship (30%), followed by hospital (25%), ambulance (20%), and emergency department (20%) bills.
- More than half (53%) of Medicare beneficiaries with serious illnesses reported experiencing a problem paying a medical bill.Shar
- More than one-third (36%) of beneficiaries said they had used up all or most of their savings to pay for health care. Around a quarter said they had been contacted by a collections agency (27%) or had been unable to pay for necessities like food, heat, or housing (23%).
- When asked about the impact of medical costs on their family, 25 percent said costs were a major burden and 30 percent said they were a minor burden.
- Sixty percent of beneficiaries said family members and friends helped them a lot, 25 percent said they helped a little, and 14 percent said they provided no help. Strain on family members and friends resulted in financial problems, reduced income, and lost jobs.
- Fewer than half of the seriously ill (46%) felt adequately informed by their health care providers about what their insurance would cover.
The Bottom Line
Medicare remains broadly popular, but many beneficiaries with serious illnesses have problems affording needed health care.
Publication Date: November 4, 2019Doctoral Student, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthRichard L. Menschel Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Policy Translation and Leadership Development, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthManaging Director, Harvard Opinion Research Program, Harvard UniversitySenior Vice President, Delivery System Reform and International Innovations, The Commonwealth FundSenior Vice President for Policy and Research, The Commonwealth Fund