May 27th, 2012 | By | Category: Social Security & Medicare

New Report Reveals Senior Medical Debt

The American Geriatric Society met May, 2012, in Seattle, and a new report from that conference provides some interesting information about medical expenses of the elderly.

A report by Dr Amy Kelley, Mt Sinai Medical School, followed 3209 people between 2002 and 2008.  They focused on the last five years of life.  Half of the subjects had heart disease; one-fourth had diabetes; 20 percent had dementia.  All were over 70.  They started with average assets of $107k, including homes.  In the year before their deaths, 20 percent had moved to nursing homes.  Average age at death was 84.

The study revealed that during the last five years of their lives, 18 percent incurred out-of-pocket expenses that exceeded their total assets. If you add in their homes, 33 percent owed more in medical bills than they had in assets.  During this five year period, the out of pocket expenses averaged $38,000.

What Medicare Doesn’t Cover

We seniors all know Medicare doesn’t cover everything.  Many of us carry supplemental health care policies to try to cover some of the cost of what Medicare leaves out.  Those non-covered items include

  • some eye care
  • eye glasses
  • dental care
  • dentures
  • hearing aids
  • insurance costs
  • nursing homes/assisted living/long-term care
  • co-payments for medical facilities and doctors

Senior citizens need Medicare to help pay for the cost of medical care.  No doubt about that.  The rest of society needs to understand that there are some costs left out of Medicare benefits, and seniors have to find a way to pay for those costs.

President Lyndon B Johnson made an interesting statement when he signed the Medicare bill in 1965.  He said, “No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime.”

That was the hope back then.  In spite of the efforts to provide financial assistance to the elderly for their medical needs, some savings are still crushed and destroyed.


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