Most young retirees and near retirees are willing to set aside a portion of their earnings in a special account to save for future medical expenses not covered by Medicare. [@@]

Researchers have published figures describing attitudes about retirement health savings in a report on a survey of 2,000 U.S. ages 50 to 70 that was backed by the Commonwealth Fund, New York.

Researchers found that 69% of the survey participants support the idea of dedicating 1% of their earnings to a new Medicare Health Account that would help them pay for long term care services and other services not covered by Medicare and supplemental insurance programs.

The MHA concept drew broad support from the baby boomers and “Silent Generation” members who participated in the survey. Support was largely independent of the participants’ income, political affiliation, region and health status, according to the researchers who organized the survey.

“It is clear that older Americans are anxious for policy solutions that would improve their ability to protect against the high cost of medical care, and make it easier to increase their retirement savings,” says Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis.

Davis says older Americans are becoming less protected from the high cost of medical care.

About 12 million older adults are uninsured or have histories of unstable coverage, and even older baby boomers who can afford to buy private health insurance through the individual market have coverage problems, Davis says.

“Older adults with coverage on the individual market are far less protected than those with employer coverage,” Davis says. “They have much higher premiums, higher deductibles and higher out-of-pocket costs that leave them substantially underinsured.”

Some other survey results:

- Many Americans in the 50-70 age group who do have private health insurance have significant gaps in coverage: 39% of survey participants in the age group who have individual coverage and 30% of participants who have employer-sponsored coverage said they had a problem with paying medical bills or medical debts in the past year.

- Even many insured Americans in the 50-70 age group are nervous about retirement health expenses: 64% of participants with employer-sponsored coverage and 71% with individual coverage said they are very or somewhat worried about being unable to afford medical care in the future.

- Individuals who bought their own insurance were especially unhappy with their coverage, with 27% rating their coverage as being fair or poor. Many owners of individual coverage complained that their doctors charged more than the insurance would cover.