U.S. Seniors Struggle to Pay for Health Care More Than Other Countries

Seniors in United States- those over the age of 65, face a lot of difficulty in paying for their health care. Research indicates that the US dawdles in seniors’ health care as compared to other affluent countries. This, however, does not mean that they don’t have access to health insurance. Every US citizen over the age of 65 is covered by Medicare, a public health insurance. However, the American elderly are still ailing more as compared to those seniors in other countries whose economies match that of US because they cannot afford to pay for the care that they require.

Individuals over the age of 65 make about 15 percent of the US population, but most of them do not have access to the essential care that they need mainly because of its high costs. Compared to other high-income countries such as France, Australia, Sweden, and UK, Americans are the sickest. Most seniors are forced to dig into their wallets to access the day-to-day assistance that they require. This is as stated in the Commonwealth Fund survey.

The Fund’s president, Dr. David Blumenthal recently said that, “Our Medicare is not as generous as comparable health insurance in other countries.” He went on to say, “In other countries, government health insurance is not restricted to the elderly, but covers everyone.”

Dr. Blumenthal maintains that United States is complacent about the value and benefits associated with Medicare, even though it is a universal system. “We do know that we, as a country, do tolerate higher levels of inequality. That’s most evident in the fact that we underinvest, compared to other countries, in social services and overinvest, despite the lack of generosity of our insurance, in health care,” he said. Dr. Blumenthal also observed that to reduce the inequality of care, there is a need to provide more social services to the elderly.

The study did an analysis of the health care experiences of seniors in Canada, Australia, Norway, France, Germany, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and US. The study’s findings indicated that in 2016, 23 percent of US seniors did not visit the doctor when they were ailing because they could not afford to. The same percentage could not access the necessary medical treatment either, and they also skipped a dose. On the other hand, not more than 5 percent of the elderly in Norway, France, UK, and Sweden lacked access to necessary care because of costs.

According to the Fund’s survey, US seniors have to deal with high healthcare costs, limited social supports, and economic challenges. This may be attributed to the fact that US invests considerably less in social services as compared to other high-income countries.

The survey indicated that nearly one in four US seniors, about 22 percent, had to part with $2,000 or more for healthcare in 2016. It indicated that only older adults in Switzerland could spend such an amount on health care. As for the rest of the countries included in the research, less than 10 percent of seniors spent $2,000 or more.

The report also indicated that 25 percent of US seniors could not afford to buy nutritious meals, and they had serious problems covering their medical bills. They were also vexed about covering other essential bills, including rent. On the other hand, less than 10 percent of seniors in France, Sweden, New Zealand, Netherlands, Switzerland, and United Kingdom reported concerns about being able to afford the aforementioned basic needs.

According to data from 2014, the average cost of a one-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility in United States is $3,500, and the rates keep rising day by day. In the same year, the average monthly social security check would have catered for less than half of the expense of the assisted living facilities because it stood at $1,294.

Older adults require comprehensive health care services to cater for their high needs because they are more prone to chronic illnesses and they struggle with the common day-to-day living activities. The survey indicated that a percentage of seniors across these nations are not satisfied with the quality of health care. For instance 41 percent of Australian seniors were to some extent or not at all satisfied. On the other hand, 26 percent of US seniors were not content with the health care provided.

The survey showed that US seniors who required a lot of care faced a lot of difficulty catering for their daily needs. Those with high needs also struggled a lot because some basic necessities were not affordable. 31 percent of US seniors skipped health care services because of costs unlike in Sweden where only 2 percent struggled because of costs. Also, close to one-third worried about having adequate cash to cater for healthy meals, electric and heat bills, or rent. High-need seniors in other high-income nations also struggle to make ends meet. Close to a quarter of seniors in Germany and Australia also reported that they worried about paying rent, other bills, and buying food.

This survey also proved that the US had the highest percentage of elderly people who visit the ER because they could not afford to pay for the health care services they needed. Apart from Canada, the rest of the high-income countries involved in the study had low rates of such cases. This indicates that despite US having Medicare, the elderly still suffer a lot in accessing health care services because of the costs they incur.

Research indicated that all the high-income countries surveyed faced challenges of providing the best health care services to their senior citizens. This was attributable to the fact that seniors are more prone to chronic illnesses, and they cannot carry out day-to-day activities comfortably like dressing themselves. It is imperative that these countries adopt the best health care ideas from their counterparts. US, in particular, has a lot to learn by assessing countries that offer universal health care from birth, and those that invest heavily in social services.