Older Women and the Medicare Program

In the US, older women rely on the Medicare program disproportionality and significantly more than men. Not only do women make up more than half of the Medicare beneficiaries, we comprise about 70 percent of the oldest (over 85 years old) beneficiaries and are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions.

Because women have a greater likelihood of living longer than men, more health care conditions will accumulate and more health care costs accrue. This means that as women age increased cost sharing and out-of-pocket expenses directly impact them more. Therefore, given the importance of Medicare’s cost sharing with seniors, and it’s quickly dwindling resources, it is important to revisit how vital the program is to older women and some of the options for securing it.

Facts about older women on Medicare:

  • In 2010, the average American woman over the age of 65 had an income of less than $22,000
  • In 2011, older women paid an average of $115 for the Medicare Part B premium, plus deductibles that range from $162 to $1132 before benefits kicked in
  • Despite cost sharing measures, Medicare does not cover many common and costly health care needs such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and long-term care
  • In 2007, the average American women spent an estimated 18.7 percent of her income on out-of-pocket health care costs

Current approaches to prolonging the Medicare program include:

  • Raising the age of Medicare eligibility over the next few years from 65 to 67, or even higher, as people are living and working longer
  • Capping payments or reducing Medicare reimbursement rates for health care providers
  • Replace Medicare as it currently is with a Voucher system, also known as a Premium Support Model. This is the plan that is being proposed by the Ryan-Wyden Medicare Plan in 2012