Nobody likes getting older. In fact, many of us dread our birthdays, reasoning that there’s nothing to look forward to after age 21. At 40 we’re “over the hill”; at 50 we get our invitation to join AARP; and at 62 we’re eligible for Social Security, which would be nice if it wasn’t also referred to as “Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance.”

But at age 65, we become eligible for Medicare, and based on some recent statistics, this is definitely a birthday worth looking forward to.

A recent article by Medical Xpress summarizes research published in the JAMA Health Forum. Some of these stats are probably worth sharing with your clients, especially if they seem concerned about dropping off a group or individual health insurance plan and signing up for Medicare. 

The study looks at people’s out-of-pocket medical spending from ages 50 to 70 and focuses on ages 64 (right before they signed up for Medicare) to 66 (right after signing up for Medicare). The numbers are pretty telling.

  • “The percentage of older adults who had no health insurance went from 5% at age 64 to almost none at age 66.”
  • Although average health care costs increased by five percent from age 64 to age 66, the “average amount that an older adult paid out-of-pocket for health care dropped 27%” over that two-year period. 
  • Nine percent of 64-year-olds “reported that their health costs ate up more than 40% of the income they had left after paying for food and housing,” but by age 66 the number of people in that “catastrophic” group had dropped by 35%.

Long story short, most people sign up for Medicare at age 65, and doing so greatly reduces the amount they spend for out-of-pocket medical expenses. 

Medicare Part D also provides welcome relief for seniors. A recent West Health-Gallup study finds that 15.5 million adults under age 65 “were unable to pay for at least one doctor-prescribed medication in their household.” The same study finds that 2.3 million seniors went without one or more prescriptions.

Prior to 2006, when Medicare Part D went into effect, many seniors, who have more prescriptions than any other group, had no drug coverage at all. But now, with a Part D plan available in every county in the United States, most people over age 65 have access to affordable drug coverage. This is important when we consider that, according to AARP, half of America’s seniors “have incomes less than two times the federal poverty level ($21,660 in 2010)” and nearly a quarter live below the poverty level. Additionally, many seniors “have limited financial resources”; about a quarter have “less than $10,000 in total savings (retirement accounts and financial assets).”

For agents, these statistics are a good reminder of why we do what we do. The guidance we provide and the policies we sell make a big difference in people’s lives. So next time a client seems down about getting older or about having to sign up for a government program, remind them that they worked hard for this, that Medicare is something that they’ve earned, and that most people really are happy with the benefits. They really should see it as a positive, not a negative.