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Medicare’s 50th birthday in 2015 is drawing attention to the state of health care for older and disabled adults. While Medicare is more protective than insurance plans that cover people under age 65, a recent survey by the Commonwealth Fund found that the U.S. lags worldwide in health care for those over 65, as reported in a New York Times article this month. The survey compared seniors’ health care in the U.S. with that of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. Here are the survey’s findings reported by the Times, with quotes by Robin Osborn of Commonwealth Fund:
‘■ Our older population is sicker. We lead the list in the proportion of people over 65 who have two or more chronic diseases (68 percent report hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.) and who take four or more prescription drugs (53 percent). Only a third of seniors in the United Kingdom have multiple chronic conditions. (The survey didn’t include residents of nursing homes or other care facilities.)
“One thing we know contributes to this is not having an ongoing, stable source of health insurance throughout your life,” Ms. Osborn said. Before they became Medicare-eligible, American seniors may have forgone preventive treatments or let conditions worsen because they couldn’t afford care.
■ Older Americans still struggle to pay for health care. Nineteen percent said that in the past year, cost was a barrier that prevented their seeing a doctor, undergoing a recommended test or treatment or filling a prescription. In only one other surveyed nation (New Zealand, at 10 percent) did that proportion reach double digits.
Among American seniors, 21 percent had out-of-pocket medical expenses that topped $2,000 and 11 percent had problems paying their medical bills. In Norway and Sweden, 1 percent had problems paying; in Germany, 3 percent.
“As good as Medicare is – it provides excellent coverage over all – it still isn’t as protective as the coverage people get in other countries,” Ms. Osborn said. Its deductibles and cost-sharing requirements still leave many Americans scrambling to afford drugs and doctors – which also cost more here.’