Article

Why Older Americans Need Health Reform

By the Numbers

A by-the-numbers look at how the health care system comes up short for Americans nearing retirement.

Physician's assistant  Tom Sievert, left, listens to the heart of James William Franklin, 62, at a clinic in Sacramento, CA. Thirty percent of adults age 50 to 64 spent at least 10 percent of their disposable income on health care in 2005, compared to 16 percent of their younger counterparts. (AP/Al Goldis)
Physician's assistant Tom Sievert, left, listens to the heart of James William Franklin, 62, at a clinic in Sacramento, CA. Thirty percent of adults age 50 to 64 spent at least 10 percent of their disposable income on health care in 2005, compared to 16 percent of their younger counterparts. (AP/Al Goldis)

Health care reform will help America’s older populations by reining in skyrocketing costs, providing them with more stability and security, and ending abusive insurance industry practices. It will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions that often affect today’s baby boomers. It will curtail insurance companies’ ability to charge people more simply because of their age. And it will provide quality, affordable choices to people who do not have employer coverage or who cannot afford to purchase insurance on their own.

The numbers below illustrate the difficulties Americans age 50 to 64 face in the current health care system, including paying for care and finding coverage.

Older Americans spend more on health care

  • 11 times more: The amount more that health insurance companies in some areas charge older customers.
  • 3 times more: The amount more that adults age 50 to 64 with individual-market insurance spent on coverage than their counterparts with employer-sponsored insurance.
  • 41: The number of states that do not even limit the amount that insurance companies can charge based on age in the individual market.
  • 30 percent: The portion of adults age 50 to 64 that spent at least 10 percent of their disposable income on health care in 2005, compared to 16 percent of their younger counterparts.
  • $7,377: The average amount that older adults aged 50 to 64 with at least one chronic condition spent on health care in 2006, compared to just $4,951 for their younger counterparts.

Fewer retirees receive health benefits, and those who have benefits spend more

  • 29 percent: The portion of large insurers that offered retiree health insurance in 2009—down from 66 percent in 1988.
  • $111: The average monthly health insurance contribution that retirees age 55 to 63 made to their former employer in 2004—up from just $25 in 1994.

Medical costs and debt force baby boomers to delay retirement

  • $2,000: The average amount of credit card debt that Americans age 50 to 64 have due to medical needs.
  • 13 months: The amount longer that men work, on average, if they expect to have higher health care costs after retirement.
  • 12 months: The amount longer that women work, on average, if they expect to have higher health care costs after retirement.

Private health insurers refuse to cover many treatments for older Americans

  • 28.7 percent: The portion of individuals age 60 to 64 that were rejected coverage by health insurance companies in 2006.
  • 22.3 percent: The portion of individuals age 55 to 59 that were rejected coverage by health insurance companies in 2006.
  • 17.4 percent: The portion of individuals age 50 to 54 that were rejected coverage by health insurance companies in 2006.

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