Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Older Americans are worried about their health insurance status, today or someday down the road, a new report says.
In fact, 47 percent of people in their 50s and 60s fear losing health insurance either now or in the future. Another 45 percent have "little or no confidence" that they will have enough money to pay for health insurance after they retire.
The data comes from National Poll on Healthy Aging, a new study conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine. The study was published Thursday.
"As people age into the years when many chronic diseases begin to take hold, and when they're still years away from Medicare coverage, it's important to talk with someone knowledgeable about all the options for coverage to bring down out-of-pocket costs and better navigate health care in this critical period," Renuka Tipirneni, a researcher at the University of Michigan and study author, said in a news release.
The researchers conducted the poll of 1,024 pre-Medicare eligible adults. They zeroed in on the fall open enrollment period for many employers' insurance plans, which is close to the beginning of open enrollment for Medicare and Affordable Care Act federal and state sites.
"The Affordable Care Act was intended to cut down on 'job lock', where a person feels trapped in their job by their need to preserve their health insurance," said Preeti Malani, a professor of internal medicine at the UM Medical School and study director. "We were surprised by the low percentage of these adults who bought their own coverage through the ACA exchanges, and the relatively high percentage who felt they had to keep a job or delay retirement in order to keep a plan. Innovative policy solutions are needed to help adults in this age group navigate their insurance options."
But many people wonder if the ACA will be around as a healthcare safety net in the future. A December court ruling threatens the law's existence, as does potential congressional action. Now the researchers think this could lead to additional unease among some older Americans.
Almost two-thirds of the study's respondents receive health insurance through an employer and 20 percent use Medicaid, Medicare or other government-provided insurance programs. Only 8 percent said they purchase their own insurance.
"This survey validates that health care coverage is a top concern of older Americans," said Alison Bryant, senior vice president of research for AARP. "The uninsured rate among the 50- to 64-year-old age group dropped 47 percent since implementation of the ACA, but we have to continue to improve access and affordability of health coverage for all older adults."