AP-GfK Poll: Baby boomers fear outliving Medicare

WASHINGTON (AP) — The first baby boomers will be old enough to qualify for Medicare Jan. 1, and many fear the program’s obituary will be written before their own.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that baby boomers believe by a ratio of 2-to-1 they won’t be able to rely on the giant health insurance plan throughout their retirement.

The boomers took a running dive into adolescence and went on to redefine work and family, but getting old is making them nervous.

Now, forty-three percent say they don’t expect to be able to depend on Medicare forever, while only 20 percent think their Medicare is secure. The rest have mixed feelings.

Yet the survey also shows a surprising willingness among adults of all ages to sacrifice to preserve Medicare benefits that most Americans say they deserve after years of paying taxes into the system at work.

Take the contentious issue of Medicare’s eligibility age, fixed at 65, while the qualifying age for Social Security is rising gradually to 67.

Initially, 63 percent of boomers in the poll dismissed the idea of raising the eligibility age to keep Medicare afloat financially. But when the survey forced them to choose between raising the age or cutting benefits, 59 percent said raise the age and keep the benefits.

“I don’t mind the fact that people may have to work a little longer,” said Lynn Barlow, 60, a real estate agent who lives outside Atlanta. Especially if there’s time to plan, laboring a few extra years allows people to save more for retirement.

Bring up benefit cuts and Barlow isn’t nearly as accommodating. “I started working when I was 16 and I expect a benefit after putting into it for so many years,” she said.

As Medicare reaches a historic threshold, the poll also found differences by age, gender and income among baby boomers. For example, baby boom women, who can expect to live longer than both their mothers and their husbands, are much more pessimistic than men about the program’s future.

Medicare is a middle-class bulwark against the ravages of illness in old age. It covers 46 million elderly and disabled people at an annual cost of about $500 billion. But the high price of American-style medicine, stressing intensive treatment and the latest innovations, is already straining program finances. Add the number of baby boomers, more than 70 million born between 1946 and 1964, and Medicare’s fiscal foundation starts to shake.

Here’s the math: when the last of the boomers reaches age 65 in about two decades, Medicare will be covering more than 80 million people. At the same time, the ratio of workers paying taxes to support the program will have plunged from 3.5 for each person receiving benefits currently, to 2.3.

“The 800-pound gorilla is eating like mad and growing to 1,200 pounds,” said economist Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute, warning about the imbalance. “The switch from worker to retiree status has implications for everything.”

The government can’t balance its books without dealing with health care costs, and Medicare is in the middle. Some leading Republicans and a few Democrats have called for phasing out the program and instead giving each retiree a fixed payment — or voucher —to help them buy private medical insurance of their choice. The poll found doubts about the idea, and a generational debate.

  • loudog

    Don’t worry Boomers, if that ever happens you’ll be able to go out into the wonderful “free enterprise” of the private sector and buy your own. Good luck.

  • Pingback: AP-GfK Poll: Baby boomers fear outliving Medicare @ 2012 Presidential Election Year

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention AP-GfK Poll: Baby boomers fear outliving Medicare | The Daily Caller - Breaking News, Opinion, Research, and Entertainment --

  • sdghrtjty
  • Duane Eugene Pounder



  • JillianO

    Boomers will only have to live a few years to see Medicare that they’ve been paying into their entire working life turn into Medicaid for the most needy since both these programs are already belly up. There is no “right” to medical care; Medicare is an entitlement which will soon vanish after having robbed all the Boomers for 40 yrs. That’s what happens when you “run out of other people’s $.” (Hat tip to Ms. Thatcher who certainly was correct.)

  • talibangelical

    Funny how people just love socialized medicine when they are the ones covered.

    • independentvoter

      Strange I thought MEDICARE is a PRE-PAID insurance policy.. and it was NOT suppose to be used until one reaches 65.. like SS however it seems that the DEMOCRATS had OTHER uses for the money, they and some Republicans took the money and GAVE it to those that DID NOT PAY IN to it AND well before they were 65.. Had they stuck to the ORIGINAL intent and had it ONLY for those that WORKED and paid in along with their spouses there would be PLENTY LEFT..But NOW if you have a disabled child you NO LONGER have to support it..YOU can get a SS check for them..If you don’t feel like working and can get a doctor to say your disabled you can get a SSI check and not work.. BUT if you work and pay in your entire life they want to give you NOTHING.. That’s not socialized ANYTHING that is out and out thrift since you are MANDATED to pay into both SS and they have give the money to other social programs.. baby boomers out number all other generations therefore paid MORE into the system than any other generation.. don’t like the chances for Politicians IF the checks aren’t in the mail each month and they are told there is NO medicare for them after THEY are the ones who supported all those on MEDICAID and WELFARE their entire working life.. Think they better tell the generational welfare recipients to GET JOBS they are the ones who will NOT be getting checks they need the money for those who paid.. SENIORS..

      • loudog

        Some republicans? Who gave us unfunded medicare part D and a tax cut? That’s an unfunded trillion dollar drag on medicare.