A new survey finds major concerns about safety net programs and healthcare affordability in the US

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Concerns about the potential insolvency of Medicare among people under 65 have increased, with 73% now expressing concern that Medicare will not be available when they need it, compared to 67% in 2022, according to the new report. West Health-Gallup 2024 Survey on Aging in America. Concerns have risen most among those aged 50 to 64, by 13 percentage points to 74%. Higher percentages of adults express concern about the future of Social Security, with 80% of people under the age of 62 and 86% of people between the ages of 40 and 49 concerned that it will no longer be there once they become eligible .

There is cause for concern, according to the annual Social Security and Medicare Trustees Report released last month. It is expected that Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund will be depleted by 2036 and Social Security’s trust funds will dry up by 2035, leaving the programs unable to pay full benefits to retired Americans.

“The threats to Medicare and Social Security are dire, and people worry that policymakers won’t do enough to protect and strengthen them,” said Timothy Lash, president of West Health, a nonprofit organization focused on health care and aging. “These safety net programs are part of the fabric of aging that millions of older Americans rely on, so any potential disruption or question mark surrounding them is cause for concern and deserves greater attention and action from policymakers.”

Most Americans don’t think the government is prioritizing issues that affect older adults. When asked in the survey how much priority the government places on issues affecting older Americans, 74% said “not very much” or “not at all.” This sentiment is felt by 80% of people over 65. More than half (57%) of Americans say they are “somewhat more likely” (37%) or “much more likely” (20%) to support a candidate for public office, raising issues that older Americans be made a top priority. This sentiment increases with age and peaks at 77% among people over 65.

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Two-thirds of Americans believe the country is not prepared to meet the overall needs of its increasingly aging population. By 2034, the US Census Bureau predicts, there will be more Americans aged 65 and over (77 million) than under the age of 18 (76.5 million), a first in US history and nearly a quarter of the entire population .

“The fact that such a large percentage of American adults place little priority on issues affecting older Americans underscores the extent to which such a priority could influence voting preferences, especially among those who already qualify for federal safety net programs and those who do not will do soon.” says Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index.

But the Survey on Aging in America shows that people are not only worried about the future, but they are also struggling now. An estimated 72.2 million – or nearly one in three adults – Americans did not seek necessary health care in the past three months due to costs, including 8.1 million Americans age 65 and older. Nearly a third (31%) are concerned about their ability to pay for prescription drugs in the next 12 months, a significant increase from 25% in 2022. These concerns are rising even faster among older Americans, who have seen an increase of 11 points experienced compared to 2022. 20% to 31% in the past two years.

Mental health challenges have also become a major issue for Americans. More than a quarter (28%) report that their mental health has deteriorated over the past three years. Among older Americans, those aged 65 and older, a fifth report that their mental health has worsened (21%), compared to just 17% who say it has improved.

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“Americans are clearly concerned about what the future holds for them as they grow older. Will Social Security and Medicare still exist? Will they be able to pay their medical bills? Will the government help address their concerns?” said Shelley Lyford, president and CEO of West Health. “The answer to all these questions should be yes, and policymakers should act quickly to give Americans something to vote for and less to worry about.”


The results are based on a survey conducted via mail (targeted at older Americans) and Internet between November 13, 2023 and January 8, 2024 among 5,149 adults aged 18 and older living in all 50 US states and the District. of Columbia as part of the Gallup Panel. Panel members aged 65 years and older were oversampled to increase the stability of results for this segment of the population.

For results based on this sample of adults from across the country, the margin of sampling error at the 95% confidence level is ±1.7 percentage points for response rates around 50% and ±1.0 percentage points for response rates around 10% or 90%, design effect included. For reported age subgroups, the margin of error will be larger, typically ranging from ±3 to ±5 percentage points.

More information:
The full report of the West Health-Gallup 2024 Survey on Aging in America can be found here.

Provided by West Health Institute

Quote: New survey finds major concerns about safety net programs and healthcare affordability in US (2024, June 5), retrieved June 5, 2024 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-06 -survey-loom-large-safety -net.html

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