Survey Finds a Clear Lack of Health-Focused Savings

More than one in five older women report zero savings for medical bills.

American women face significant challenges when paying for healthcare in their golden years compared with men, and older women are twice as likely to lack savings for medical bills.

According to the MedicareGuide Annual Health Finance Survey, released Monday, 21% of older women report zero savings for medical bills, compared to just 11% of older men. The survey was conducted among 1,176 adults aged 65 and older in September.

Older women are also more likely to feel troubled about their ability to pay for medical care, with 61% saying they are very or somewhat concerned about their ability to pay for healthcare costs, compared to 52% of men. Men were more likely to have more than $6,000 saved for medical bills (41%), compared to 28% of women.

Women worry more about what could happen if they were to experience a medical emergency. Fifty-one percent of women are very or somewhat concerned a major health situation could lead to bankruptcy or debt, compared to 40% of men. When facing healthcare bills, 30% of women surveyed have trouble paying compared to 24% of men.

There is a gender divide when it comes to the different healthcare expenses women and men face. While both men and women rank long-term care as their number one expense, with 24% of respondents for each gender, there is a clear divide with other costs.

Health insurance is the second most expensive healthcare expense for men (14%), compared to 24% of women how said it was theirs, tying with long-term care. Further down, 22% of older women rank dentist bills as their largest healthcare expense compared to 14% of men. Ten percent of women rank doctor bills their highest medical cost compared to 5% of men, while on the other hand, they are more likely to cite inpatient hospital bills as their top expense (13% compared to 10% of women).

Women are more likely to skip expenses and other purchases in order to afford healthcare. Thirty-two percent of women said they had forgone paying for expenses and purchases to afford medical costs, comparted to 23% of men. Among the items older women are most likely to skip than men are food, big-ticket purchases and home repairs.