Elderly Spend 19% of Income on Medical Care

In the April 2000 issue of Journal of Gerontology, comes an article showing that the elderly spend a large portion of their income for medical services. The study showed these expenses to include out-of-pocket expenses such as health insurance premiums, medical co-payments, and prescriptions, with more than half of these payments going toward prescription drugs and dental care.

The lead author, Stephen Crystal, chairman of the Division on Aging of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University summed up the findings with a comment, "Nineteen percent is fairly burdensome for the average elderly person, but the figures are even worse for those in the lowest income levels, for those with chronic health problems and for the oldest of the old."

Probably the largest portion of that expense is prescription drugs. According to the study, prescribed medication costs have grown to account for 33.9%, more than one-third, of the overall-all out-of-pocket expenses for the elderly. Presently, there is a push for coverage of prescription drugs by various programs that cover the elderly. The fears are that if coverage is obtained both the price and amount of drugs prescriptions will increase.