Future Medicare population may struggle to cover more costs

Can existing and future generations of Medicare beneficiaries afford to bear higher healthcare costs? That's the question that the Kaiser Family Foundation sought to answer when it looked at the economic downturn and recovery and the Medicare population's income, savings and home equity.

The analysis found varying income and assets among Medicare beneficiaries. For instance, 50 percent of Medicare beneficiaries had incomes below $23,500 in 2013, 25 percent had incomes below $14,400, 5 percent had incomes above $93,900 and 1 percent had incomes above $171,650.

In 2030, the per capita income among the Medicare population will moderately increase from today's levels, after adjusting for inflation. But much of that growth will occur among beneficiaries with higher incomes, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

For example, beneficiaries in the top 5 percent of the income distribution will experience an increase of about $18,000 between 2013 and 2030.  For beneficiaries in the bottom quartile of the income distribution, incomes will increase by about $2,000, after adjusting for inflation, the analysis found. 

As with income, Kaiser Family Foundation found savings and home equity among beneficiaries varied greatly across beneficiaries in 2013. Similarly, minority of beneficiaries with more savings and more home equity will realize the projected growth in per capita savings and per capita home equity in 2013, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

With most of the Medicare population of modest means and half of beneficiaries living on less than $23,500 last year, the study authors have doubts about how the next generation of Medicare beneficiaries will take on a bigger share of costs.

Meanwhile, a December study by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation also examined the Medicare population, finding that most beneficiaries have ample access to physician services. In fact, 96 percent of beneficiaries reported regular access to a doctor's office or clinic, and 90 percent could book prompt appointments for routine and specialty care, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the issue brief

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