1 in 7 Seniors on Medicare Forced Back to Work in Order to Pay for Healthcare Costs

As of 2020, an estimated 18% of the U.S. population was covered by Medicare, with the vast majority of this group being seniors over age 65. However, most Medicare plans do not cover vision, dental, and hearing benefits, and adding this coverage has been the cause of intense political debate over the past year.

We surveyed 800 seniors on Medicare, across political parties, to see how they felt about adding vision and dental coverage. We also aimed to find out if the current lack of coverage has caused them to forgo care or experience financial hardships, especially during the pandemic.

We found that:

  • One in seven seniors have gone back to work in order to cover medical expenses
  • 83% of seniors want vision and dental coverage added, but not at the cost of higher taxes
  • 33% have forgone vision care, and 39% have forgone dental care this year because of the cost
  • Nearly a third have had to dip into their savings in order to pay for healthcare despite their Medicare benefits

Despite being covered by Medicare, 14% of survey respondents stated that they had to go back to work this year, whether it was full-time, part-time, or self-employed, in order to pay for their medical bills. The fact that people who are supposed to be enjoying their retirement would have to return to the workforce at such a late stage of their lives is alarming, especially since this population is especially vulnerable to the ongoing pandemic.

Large Percentage of Seniors Have Had to Skip Vision and Dental Care This Year

The lack of dental and vision coverage comes at a cost for those who need it, as not everyone is able to return to work or dip into their savings. Of the 800 seniors on Medicare that we surveyed, 33% said they had forgone vision care this year because of the cost. Additionally, 39% say they have skipped dental care this year because they couldn’t afford it. Caring for your eyes and teeth becomes arguably more important as we age, and it’s troubling to learn that such a large percentage of seniors are going without.

83% Want Dental and Vision Added to Medicare

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the previous headline, the vast majority of seniors on Medicare want dental and vision care to be covered. However, they differ on how they want these additional benefits paid for. Of the 83% who said they do support adding dental and vision, only 63% stated that they would still support adding coverage if it was paid for with higher taxes. Predictably, this number decreases further when looking just at respondents who identified as Republicans. Only 50% of Republican respondents said they would want vision and dental benefits added at the cost of higher taxes, versus 75% of Democratic respondents.

Many Seniors on Medicare Have Also Gone Without Medications and Surgeries

In addition to forgoing vision and dental care, a notable percentage of our survey respondents say they’ve been going without other crucial parts of their care this year. Sixteen percent say they’ve skipped medications this year because of cost, while 12%say they have even forgone surgeries.

31% of Seniors Have Dipped Into Their Savings to Pay for Medical Care

Nearly one-third of seniors on Medicare say they have had to dip into their savings in order to pay for care, whether that be for services not covered like vision, dental, and hearing, or because necessary medications and procedures fall outside their range of coverage.

When asked how much on average they spend out of pocket on healthcare-related costs each month, the largest percentage said they spend $50-$100/month, with the second-largest group reporting $100-$300/month.

Despite the constant political chatter around Medicare, it would appear that many recipients still aren’t receiving the coverage they need. Will Democrats be able to push expanded coverage through? That remains to be seen.

Survey Methodology

This survey was commissioned by MedicarePlans.com and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish between November 4 and November 5, 2021. In total, 800 participants in the U.S. were surveyed. All participants had to pass through demographic filters and screening questions to ensure that they were seniors age 65+ who are currently receiving Medicare benefits. 38% of respondents stated that they identify with the Republican party, 43% with the Democratic party, and 19% as independent or other. 55% of respondents stated that they are receiving Medicare Part “C”/Medicare Advantage, 9% only Part A, 10% only Part B, 3% only Part D, 13% a different plan, and 10% that they weren’t sure at the time of the survey.

For full survey results please contact [email protected].