Medicare fears grip Americans: Nearly 3 in 4 adults under 65 worry it won't be around for them

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Americans fear for a future where they age without adequate social support for older adults. 

According to the newly released Survey on Aging in America, published Tuesday, the vast majority of people under 65—73%—fear Medicare will not be around to support them when needed. It’s a jump from 67% in 2022.

The survey, conducted by West Health, a non-profit supporting aging adults, in partnership with Gallup, underscores the growing fear many have of being unable to afford the health care costs of a longer life. 

Eighty percent of Americans under 62 surveyed are concerned about the future of Social Security, and 86% of respondents between ages 40 and 49 don’t think the funds will be available when they reach the age of eligibility. Overall, two-thirds of respondents don’t believe the U.S. has adequate policies and support for older adults, and experts say their fears are not unwarranted.

As the number of people 65 and older is predicted to nearly double in the next 40 years and reach 80 million by 2040, some experts predict that there won’t be enough programs in place to support them.

According to a report from The U.S. Department of the Treasury, The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI) and the Disability Insurance Trust Fund (DI), known as Social Security, will be depleted by 2035 and will not be able to fully and promptly support older adults. Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund (HI) will not be able to meet demand by 2036. 

“Threats to Medicare and Social Security loom large, and people are worried policymakers won’t do enough to protect and strengthen them,” Timothy Lash, the president of West Health, said in a press release. “These safety net programs are part of the fabric of aging that millions of older Americans rely upon, so any potential disruption or question mark around them is cause for alarm and deserving of greater attention and action from policymakers.”

Practical solutions are timely, and more Americans are eager to put someone in office who will assure them that supporting aging Americans is at the top of their minds. The majority, 57%, of those surveyed said they are somewhat or much more likely to support a candidate who prioritizes policies supporting the well-being and future of older adults. 

The survey also highlights that Americans are struggling to pay for health care now: One in five Americans say health care costs are a major financial burden, particularly the cost of prescription drugs. Financial stress over health care has likely played a role in the rising number of mental health challenges facing older Americans. 

The survey found that one in five adults 65 and older reported worsening mental health in the past three years. One in five also say they can pinpoint an incidence where they wanted to talk to a professional about their mental health but never did, as older adults are less likely to seek help for mental health issues compared to those under 50.

“Americans are clearly worried about what the future holds for them as they grow older. Will Social Security and Medicare still be around? Will they be able to afford their medical bills? Will the government help address their concerns?” Shelley Lyford, CEO of West Health, said in the release. “The answer to all these questions should be yes, and policymakers should act quickly to give Americans something to vote for and less to worry about.”

Lash tells Fortune in an email interview that the time is now to ensure funding for the future of older adults in the coming decades. “We need to act now to protect Medicare and Social Security and not give Americans reason to think these critical programs will disappear someday,” he says. “We also need to safeguard and expand the healthcare provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, and beyond that, better tailor the care for an aging population, work to lower healthcare costs for everyone as they age,  and bring real parity in the U.S. healthcare system between physical and mental health.”

West Health and Gallup surveyed over 5,000 American adults across the nation, and took into account a higher proportion of those 65 and older. 

For more on Medicare and the age wave: 

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