Older adults are not only at higher risk of serious illness if they get the coronavirus, but also financially vulnerable if the pandemic leads to a sustained drop in their income and retirement savings. Seniors already face significant out-of-pocket costs for health care and as a share of income. It doesn’t take much to imagine how the coronavirus economy could lead to a drop in both income and retirement savings for seniors for an unknown period of time.
Having Medicare coverage does not alleviate the burden of medical costs. In 2017, one in six Medicare beneficiaries had problems getting care or delayed care due to cost, or had problems paying medical bills, and the percentage was significantly higher among beneficiaries in fair or poor health, those with low incomes, and those without supplemental coverage.
The nation’s long-term care workers are disproportionately low wage employees, they tend to have direct and frequent contact with patients, and many are middle-aged or older. That makes them a group that is at higher risk of coronavirus infection and generally less suited to weather the financial and physical trials of getting sick.
We examine the share of Part D enrollees who have access to extended supplies of generic, brand-name, and specialty-tier drugs covered by their plan in 2020, under policies that applied prior to the change in law, and that will apply after the COVID-19 emergency declaration ends.
Even before the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are fully realized, our analysis finds many Medicare beneficiaries lived on limited incomes and modest, if any, savings, with wide disparities by age, gender and race/ethnicity. That raises questions about the extent to which Medicare beneficiaries will be able to bear additional, unanticipated costs that are likely to arise from the pandemic.
Congress is considering legislation this week to lower prescription drug costs. Our chartpack summarizes key provisions in three House and Senate bills and their likely impact on prices, people and federal spending.
A relatively small share of people with Medicare Advantage or stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage voluntarily switch plans during Medicare’s open enrollment period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.