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Health Care Cost: Expenses Hurt Elderly The Most, Report

Even with Medicare, seniors face incredible strain under health care costs, according to a new report.

The report, which appears in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, looked at data from more than 3,000 people covered by Medicare in 2002-2008 to gauge the impact of health care cost on seniors. Researchers measured how much Medicare-eligible seniors had spent out of pocket on healthcare in their last five years alive, and looked at how those costs weighed on their total household income.

After crunching the numbers, the report found that during that time period, more than 75 percent of Medicare-eligible households spent at least $10,000 out of pocket on health care. Spending for all participants during those last five years averaged $38,688, and for the remaining 25 percent the average expense was even greater: they spent a whopping $101,791 out of pocket. A quarter of participants also spent "more than their total household assets on healthcare," according to the report.

The report's researchers noted that expenses varied based on the type of illness participants faced, with dementia costing the most money (double the cost of cancer or gastrointestinal diseases).

Rising health care costs can't be ignored: in the last year, 58 percent of people didn't seek treatment they needed because it was too expensive, according to a survey done by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research organization based in Menlo Park, California. Protecting and keeping Medicare solvent has been caught in a political boondoggle. But with people living longer -- men can expect to live 81.6 years, up from 66.1 and women are living to 86, up from 73.5 -- and 70 percent of people over 65 needing long-term health care, the need for a "financially viable scheme" is dire, the report concluded.

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