Older Americans Are Putting Off Healthcare Because of Financial Constraints


Healthcare costs have the potential to mount at any time. But it’s common for medical expenses to be a particular burden in retirement, since health issues tend to arise with age.

Compounding the problem is that many seniors live on a fixed income that consists largely (or in some cases, solely) of Social Security. So when healthcare costs start to rise, seniors are often forced to make sacrifices. New data, however, reveals that seniors may be sacrificing their own health by putting off medical care because of a lack of funds.

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A terrible position to be in

Recent data from the nonpartisan Senior Citizens League finds that older Americans are struggling to keep up with healthcare costs, and many are postponing medical care because of that. In fact, more than 66% of those surveyed say they’ve postponed dental care, including major treatments like bridges, dentures, and implants.

Meanwhile, 43% of respondents say they’ve delayed optical exams or put off getting prescription eyeglasses. And almost 33% of survey participants said they’ve postponed getting medical care or filling prescriptions.

Given that original Medicare doesn’t cover dental or vision expenses, these results aren’t particularly surprising. But they’re disturbing nonetheless.

Don’t risk a similar fate

A big reason so many seniors wind up having to delay healthcare is a lack of money. But if you make an effort to save for healthcare expenses ahead of retirement, you’ll hopefully end up in a very different boat.

One good option, in fact, is to contribute steadily to a health savings account (HSA) if you’re eligible to do so based on your health insurance plan. You must be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan for this to be an option.

HSAs let you take withdrawals for both near- and long-term medical expenses. But funds you don’t need right away can be invested tax-free for added growth.

If you’re not eligible to fund an HSA because of the health plan you’re on, pad your 401(k) or IRA so you have more money available to you in retirement. You can dip in to cover not just larger healthcare expenses, but also, things like unexpected home and vehicle repairs that might be too much for your Social Security benefits to cover.

Of course, if you’re already in retirement and are struggling to keep up with your medical bills, you may want to explore your options for getting onto a different Medicare plan. Though original Medicare will not pick up the tab for dental and vision services, most Medicare Advantage plans do. And you may find that your total costs are cheaper under the right Advantage plan.

If you’re already on Medicare, you’ll need to wait until open enrollment in the fall to change your coverage. But it’s an option worth looking into if you’ve recently been in a position where you’ve had to delay medical treatment in any shape or form. Similarly, if you’ve had to cut back on prescription drugs or delay filling a prescription because of the costs involved, fall open enrollment is a good time to look into getting a new Part D drug plan.

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