Worried You Can’t Afford Health Care? You are not alone
A large number of adults in their 50s and 60s plan to put off retirement or are thinking about delaying it, to keep their employer’s health insurance, according to a national survey.
Nearly half (45 percent) of participants in the National Poll on Healthy Aging had little or no confidence that they could afford health insurance costs when they retire.
More than 1,000 people between the ages of 50 and 64 responded to the poll, conducted in late 2018, and sponsored by AARP and the University of Michigan. Of the survey respondents:
- 66 percent had employer-based health insurance coverage
- 22 percent had government-sponsored health care insurance, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Administration, or military coverage
- 8 percent had individual private insurance, including coverage from the Health Insurance Marketplace
In the year prior to the survey, 14 percent of participants said they kept a job specifically to have employer-based health coverage.
Health Insurance Costs Fuel Worries
The rising cost of health care has future retirees worried about its affordability. The costs of annual premiums continue to increase as well as the deductibles, the amount an individual has to pay upfront before the insurance company begins to pay.
Annual surveys by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) on employer-sponsored health coverage confirm employees’ concerns about rising costs. KFF surveys have been tracking trends in employer-sponsored health coverage for more than two decades. The survey questions over 2,000 small and large employers about premiums, employee contributions, wellness programs, plan cost-sharing, and other related health coverage information.
Most workers have a big concern about health care costs increasing faster than their wages, KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said in a press release about the 2019 survey results.
According to KFF’s 2019 survey, average family premiums increased 54 percent since 2009, while employee contributions jumped 71 percent. At the same time, wages have only increased 26 percent and inflation only 20 percent.
In addition, the survey showed 1 in 8 workers pay deductibles of at least $3,000, while over 28 percent of workers are in plans with a deductible of at least $2,000.
Affordable Care Act Does Not Ease Employees’ Concerns
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides subsidies to help eligible individuals and families purchase health coverage through the government’s Health Insurance Marketplace or through private insurance companies.
But even with a subsidy, many people find the government’s health care reform program unaffordable, primarily due to ACA cost increases.
KFF reports that ACA premiums are out of reach for some older adults, particularly middle-class adults who do not have subsidized coverage. According to KFF, a 60-year-old making $50,000 who purchased the lowest-cost ACA plan would pay 17 percent of his or her income in premiums. In contrast, a 27-year-old making the same income would only pay 7 percent of his or her income in premiums for the same low-cost health plan.
The landmark health care legislation enacted in 2010 by President Barack Obama, has an uncertain future. Republicans have been trying to repeal the ACA, more commonly known as “Obamacare,” since 2016.
The National Poll on Healthy Aging respondents said they followed media reports about possible changes to the ACA, as well as to Medicare or Medicaid. A majority of participants (68 percent) said they were very or somewhat concerned about changes to their health care coverage because of federal policy changes.
Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to ACA
In early March, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear a case challenging the constitutionality of the ACA, which currently covers about 20 million people.
A federal district judge in Texas ruled in 2018 that the ACA’s individual mandate, and the ACA itself, was unconstitutional. The individual mandate required most Americans to obtain a minimum amount of health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
The ruling was appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-member panel agreed that the individual mandate was unconstitutional but did not rule on whether the entire ACA was unconstitutional. The appeals court judges, instead, sent the case back to the district court judge for further analysis.
Employees Delay Medical Care
Some healthy aging survey respondents said they are delaying getting treatment for a health problem because of the out-of-pocket costs involved.
According to the survey, 13 percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 did not get medical care in the past year because of the costs. Meanwhile, employees between the ages of 60 and 64 said they were postponing their medical procedures until they had Medicare.