Medicare is a blessing for people over 65 and people with disabilities. But, it only covers about half of a typical person’s health care costs. A new Kaiser Family Foundation study finds that people with Medicare still spend an average of almost $5,500 on health care.
Nearly two years ago, Kaiser reported data from 2013 showing that people with Medicare spent an average of $5,500 on health care six years ago. Kaiser’s new report looks at 2016 data to arrive at about the same finding, $5,460.
Different Medicare subpopulations spend more than others. Nearly $1,000 of those out-of-pocket costs are for institutionalized long-term care services, which only one in 20 people with Medicare use. People living in the community spent an average of $4,519 out-of-pocket on health care costs.
The oldest people with Medicare, people who were hospitalized, and people in poor health, spent more on health care than others. People between 65 and 74, on average, spent less than half as much out of pocket as people 85 and older, $5,021 as compared to $10,307. The difference is largely attributable to the costs of institutionalized care.
People who were hospitalized at least once during the year spent almost $2,500 more than people who were not hospitalized, $7,613 as compared to $5,044.
Curiously, women spent somewhat more out of pocket, on average, than men, $5,748 as compared to $5,104. And, even though extra help is available for people with low incomes to pay for their health care, people with Medicaid and Medicare still spent an average of $2,665.
Understandably people with multiple chronic conditions spent more on average than people in better health. People with five or more chronic conditions spent $1,065 on prescription drugs as compared to $416 for people with one or two chronic conditions. People with cancer, hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis spend thousands of dollars out of pocket each year even with the Part D drug benefit.
Dental services, which Medicare does not cover, cost people with Medicare an average of $449.
Kaiser was only able to analyze traditional Medicare data as the Medicare Advantage plans, private health plans that contract with Medicare, do not disclose this data. What are they hiding? More important, with Medicare for All, older adults and people with disabilities would save an average of $5,500 on health care costs.
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