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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

In Survey, Nearly One in Five People Age 45 and Older Say They're Not Sure They Can Afford Health Care in 2009

WebMD Health News

Some Boomers Edgy on Health Care Costs

Dec. 24, 2008 -- Health care costs are daunting to nearly a fifth of the people who took part in a recent AARP survey.

The telephone survey, conducted in November by Woelfel Research, included 1,001 U.S. adults age 45 and older. All but 10% of them have health insurance, either from their employer, their spouse's employer, private insurance, or Medicare.

One survey question was, "How confident are you that you will be able to afford medical care next year?"

Most people -- 81% -- said they were at least somewhat confident. That leaves the remaining 19% unsure that they will be able to foot their health care bills in 2009. Here are the details:

  • Extremely confident: 26%
  • Very confident: 33%
  • Somewhat confident: 22%
  • Not very confident: 9%
  • Not at all confident: 10%

People age 65 and older (and thus eligible for Medicare) were especially confident that they'll be able to afford health care next year. People earning less than $30,000 per year were least confident about being able to pay for healthcare.

Likewise, when asked specifically about affording prescription drug costs next year, most people -- 83% -- were at least somewhat confident. But 9% were not very confident and 8% were not at all confident that they could afford their prescription drugs. Most participants reported spending up to $200 per month for up to six prescription drugs in 2008.

Taking Action

Survey participants were also asked what they had done to try to contain their health care costs.

  • 58% said that when a doctor prescribes a new drug, they always ask if there's a generic equivalent.
  • 62% said they always pick the generic version, if one is available.
  • 49% said they've asked their doctor if there are things they can do (such as physical activity and diet change) to lower their number of medications.
  • 77% said they've never been prescribed a brand-name drug that they couldn't afford.
  • 85% said they hadn't cut back on medications in the past year because of costs.

The survey has a margin of error of three percentage points.

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