Older Americans worried about insurance coverage, health costs as they approach retirement

A sizable percentage of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 are worried about their healthcare coverage as they head toward retirement, according to a new poll from the University of Michigan.

Although some of these concerns include things people can’t directly control, such as policy changes, many are focused on maintaining current coverage provided through an employer while reducing personal healthcare expenses.

“The ACA’s insurance coverage expansion was intended, in part, to reduce 'job lock' and allow individuals to change or leave their job without concern about becoming uninsured,” the report says. “However, data from this poll suggest that many adults age 50–64 still worry about maintaining employer-sponsored health insurance and keeping a job for that reason.”

About a quarter (27%) of respondents fear they won’t be able to afford their insurance over the next year, and nearly half (45%) expressed little to no confidence in being able to afford their insurance when they retire.

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Meanwhile, 13% of those surveyed postponed medical care within the last year due to cost concerns. Another 15% postponed procedures until they could change their plan the following coverage year—so it would be covered, to incur lower out-of-pocket costs or to see a specific doctor in-network. Additionally, 8% of respondents between the ages of 60 and 64 reported delaying a procedure until they could get Medicare.

Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) said they were keeping a job, delaying retirement or considering delaying retirement to keep their employer-sponsored insurance. With that in mind, 71% of retirees were confident in their ability to afford insurance—a much higher percentage than those who were working (54%) or not working (49%).

Men were more confident than women that they could afford insurance at retirement (61% vs. 50%). Those in “excellent” health were more confident than those in “good” or “fair/poor” health (62% vs. 54% and 42%), as were those with a college degree compared to those without.

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Nearly 8 in 10 respondents (79%) said they were very confident in their ability to navigate the health insurance landscape, though about 3 in 10 (29%) indicated little or no confidence that they could determine the out-of-pocket costs associated with a prospective service.

The study indicates Americans are closely watching and responding to challenges to the Affordable Care Act, such as a ruling by a federal judge in Texas striking down the law. Over the weekend, the judge issued a stay on the ruling, saying the healthcare law should remain in effect as appeals weave their way through the courts.

Half of those surveyed said they closely follow news about the ACA, Medicare or Medicaid, and 68% said they are worried about how their coverage may change due to federal policies.

“Regardless of potential federal policy changes, patients and their health care providers should discuss the out-of-pocket costs of health care, such as medical procedures, tests, or medications. Such discussions can help inform decisions about their health insurance options and the timing, choice, and appropriateness of health care services,” it concluded.