Medicare doesn’t measure up to eldercare in 10 other countries

December 16, 2017

Although a Harvard School of Public Health survey, found that 72% of Americans age 65+ have a favorable opinion of Medicare, a new, 11-country survey has disabused us of that sentiment. In reality, Medicare pales against the health coverage offered to older populations by many other nations.

Based on the findings of the Commonwealth Fund’s International Health Policy Survey, people who rely on Medicare receive a lower level of medical protection and maintenance than those in 10 other countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

They also are more likely to go without needed care because of costs.

There is one caveat: America has a significantly higher rate of high-need older adults (43%) than most of those other countries, the researchers noted. And, they said, high-need elderly individuals are more likely to suffer economic hardship, experience depression and anxiety, live alone and feel socially isolated and be at greater risk for falls than those who aren’t high need.

America also has the highest proportion of people 65+ with multiple chronic conditions.

And while some countries spend $2 on social services for every dollar devoted to healthcare, America spends less than 60 cents.

“U.S. seniors face more financial barriers to care than those in other countries and are, in effect, hit with a triple whammy — higher healthcare costs, higher out-of-pocket costs and—because the U.S.A. doesn’t invest heavily in social services, they are more likely to struggle to have their basic needs met,” said Robin Osborn, lead author of the study and vice president and director of the International Program in Health Policy and Practice Innovations at The Commonwealth Fund.

Said Commonwealth Funds President Dr. David Blumenthal: “Clearly there are struggles everywhere, but here in the U.S., we are hearing loud and clear that many of our seniors, especially those who are sickest, need more support if they are going to get the health care they need and live healthy lives.”

Research contact: mm@cmwf.org

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