Medicare patients expected to struggle affording health care this year

Many will be forced to forgo care or return to the workforce to pay health care bills

From 2021 to 2022, the monthly premium for Medicare Part B increased by 14.5%, the largest price hike in the program's history. As a result, 60% of Medicare recipients predict they will have difficulty affording their health care this year, according to a new survey by MedicarePlans.com.

Of those surveyed, 18% said affording health care expenses will be “very difficult” after the price increase, while 42% said it will be “somewhat difficult.” In addition, 20% of Medicare recipients indicated they spend 50% or more of their monthly income on health care expenses. As a result, half will have to forgo some type of medical care in 2022.

“Most years, we expect a Medicare price increase, but in 2021, that increase was limited by the CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senior Advisor Kelly Blackwell, MedicarePlans.com, in a statement. “Now, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is playing catch-up. The higher premium is expected to fund Medicare spending and keep a reserve. Additionally, the uncertainty around Medicare coverage of some drugs, like the new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, was another factor in the price increase.”

Medicare patients are having to make difficult decisions. The majority, 51%, are reducing discretionary spending on things like travel and entertainment. However, 29% are also cutting back on necessities, including groceries and utility bills. Twenty-three percent of seniors are coping with inflation by dipping into savings, while 15% are trying to reduce their health care costs by skipping prescription medications or delaying medical procedures.

Twenty-one percent of these respondents say it’s ‘very likely’ they’ll forgo medical care, while 28% say it’s ‘likely.’ Seniors are most likely to skip medical care that is not covered by Medicare, including dental care (41%) and vision care (34%). Twenty-nine percent will skip routine check-ups, while 26% will forgo outpatient procedures.

Twenty-seven percent of those who anticipate difficulty paying for healthcare costs say they may have to come out of retirement and start working again. Meanwhile, 22% of those who haven’t retired yet say they will continue working, even though they are eligible for retirement. The plurality of these respondents, 40%, will turn to savings to cover health care costs and other expenses. Sixteen percent are turning to children or other family members for financial assistance.